Anger is Red-Hot Coal

Cognitive scientist and author Guy Claxton writes in The Heart of Buddhism: Practical Wisdom for an Agitated World (1999):

Buddhism describes getting angry as being like picking up a red-hot coal in your bare hands to throw at someone else. I remember one occasion on which His Holiness The Dalai Lama was asked whether it was ever useful or legitimate to get angry with someone else. He sat in silence for several minutes, exactly like a chess player meditating on the consequences of all the possible moves, and then having exhausted all the possibilities, he simply said, “No.”

What’s Wrong with Our Corporate Boards

Michael J. de la Merced of the New York Times summarizes Warren Buffett’s complaints about the poor state of many corporate boards in his 2019 Berkshire Hathaway annual letter:

  • Too few women serve on them.
  • Directors are often captive to the management teams they are meant to supervise, particularly when it comes to acquisitions that chief executives want to make. “Don’t ask the barber whether you need a haircut,” he wrote.
  • Too many directors go along with management teams in hopes of getting a good reference so they can be added to a second corporate board and earn more paychecks. “When seeking directors, C.E.O.s don’t look for pit bulls,” Mr. Buffett wrote. “It’s the cocker spaniel that gets taken home.”

The Cooperative Magic of Work

Dylan Pahman, fellow at the conservative think tank Acton Institute, writes,

“Work,” wrote the Reformed theologian Lester DeKoster, “is the form in which we make ourselves useful to others.” I like this definition because it puts things in a realistic, everyday perspective. Certainly, people can work just because they want a paycheck to spend on themselves alone. That might be greedy, but we need to be careful not to confuse profit with greed.

People work in order to profit, but profit is not good or evil in itself. That judgment depends on the circumstances in which it was gained and the use to which it is put. And as DeKoster points out, our work itself is service to others. If it wasn’t, they wouldn’t pay us to do it in the first place, and most people wouldn’t want to do it for free. It’s an exchange.

Standing Up For Your Values

Dan Schulman, CEO of PayPal, discusses CEO activism and the role of corporate ethical responsibility in this New York Times interview with David Gelles (Corner Office column):

Gelles: PayPal was one of the first financial companies to take a stand on guns. How did you arrive at that decision?

Schulman: If you’re going to have a consistent set of values that you stand up for, they have to be reflected in your acceptable use policy. Around the violence in Charlottesville, we identified a number of groups that espouse hate or violence, and we don’t allow them to use PayPal to fund-raise.

And we do not allow PayPal to be used for guns and ammunition. That there are rules and regulations in terms of background checks is extraordinarily important. But if somebody is going to do something online, we can’t fully vouch for those background checks. And so therefore we just outlaw it.

Gelles: It’s not always comfortable for C.E.O.s to take a stand on these issues. How do you decide where to draw that line?

Schulman: Companies, and by extension their management teams and their C.E.O.s, have a moral obligation to try to be a force for good. I don’t think there’s any way that we can shirk that responsibility, and I don’t think there’s any way to fully stand away from the culture wars around us. You have to take a stand. That stand shouldn’t be a political one. But it should be one that is based on your values and your mission.

Our Planet Does Not Need Our Saving

Adam Frank, professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester, writes in a New York Times op-ed,

Our planet does not need our saving. The biosphere has endured cataclysms far worse than us—and after millions of years thrived again. Even the Earth’s five fearsome mass extinctions became opportunities for the biosphere’s creativity, driving new rounds of evolutionary experiments.

As the great biologist Lynn Margulis once put it, “Gaia is a tough bitch.” In the long term, the biosphere will handle pretty much anything we throw at it, including climate change.

What Earth’s history does make clear, however, is that if we don’t take the right kind of action soon the biosphere will simply move on without us, creating new versions of itself in the changing climate we’re generating now.

Relaxing With Ambiguity

Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron writes in When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (2005):

The difference between theism and nontheism is not whether one does not believe in God… Theism is a deep seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold… Nontheism is relaxing in with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves… Nontheism is finally recognizing that there is no baby sitter you can count on.

The Rock Test to Avoid Being Accused of Sexual Harassment

Anne Victoria Clark (The Medium’s Human Parts blog) offers tips for men confused on how to treat women they work with:

It’s as clear cut as this: Treat all women like you would treat Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

I know, this sounds weird, but trust me, this is a visualization exercise that will work wonders in your dealings with the women in your workplace. When a woman approaches you, just replace her in your mind with The Rock. Then, behave accordingly.

Simply offer them the same respect, admiration, and healthy dose of fear you’d offer anyone who could completely destroy you should you deserve it.

Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean in’ Offers Demure Insights into Gender Differences

Christina Hoff Sommers at The Atlantic feels that, in Lean In (2013,) Sheryl Sandberg’s endeavor to unshackle American women from gender stereotypes may be merely hindering their true path to freedom:

An up-to-date manifesto on women and work should steer clear of encounter groups and boys-must-play-with dolls rhetoric. It should make room for human reality: that in the pursuit of happiness, men and women often take different paths. Gender differences can sometimes be symptoms of oppression and subordination. But in a modern society they can also be the felicitous consequences of liberated choice—of the “free to be you and me” that women have been working towards for generations.

Avoid Extremely Intense Ideology

From Charlie Munger’s USC Gould School of Law commencement address:

Another thing to avoid is extremely intense ideology because it cabbages up one’s mind. You see a lot of it in the worst of the TV preachers. They have different, intense, inconsistent ideas about technical theology, and a lot of them have minds reduced to cabbage. And that can happen with political ideology. And if you’re young, it’s particularly easy to drift into intense and foolish political ideology and never get out. When you announce that you’re a loyal member of some cult-like group and you start shouting out the orthodox ideology, what you’re doing is pounding it in, pounding it in, pounding it in. You’re ruining your mind, sometimes with startling speed. So you want to be very careful with intense ideology. It presents a big danger for the only mind you’re ever going to have.

Source: Poor Charlie’s Almanack

When Triviality Drops Away

Cognitive scientist and author Guy Claxton writes in The Heart of Buddhism: Practical Wisdom for an Agitated World (1999):

One’s attitude to death is very important in Buddhism. When we forget our mortality and the mortality of our loved ones, it is possible for our priorities to go haywire, and for us to become bamboozled into thinking that all kinds of peripheral things – wealth, status, popularity – are of the essence. Sometimes it takes an angina attack or a stroke to remind us of what we value most. In one of his books about the Yacqui Indian sage Don Juan, Carlos Castaneda reports him as saying, “When your death makes a gesture to you, an enormous weight of triviality drops away.” Though, being forgetful, it is perfectly possible for us to pick it up again!