Robin Williams and Brittany Maynard

      2014 was full of big news items (Isis, Ebola, Ferguson, etc.) that received a lot of coverage for obvious reasons, but the suicides of Robin Williams and Brittany Maynard stand out in my mind as reflective of issues that perhaps aren’t examined as much as they should be.
      Like many, I liked Robin Williams. I grew up with Mork and Mindy and thought he was a good actor and comedian. And I knew someone who had met and spent some time with Robin (through Robin’s lifelong friend Jonathan Winters who frequented the Coffee Grinder, a coffee shop that existed for years in Carpinteria, California where I live.) And this person observed that it was impossible to truly connect with Robin in an authentic way, not due to any conceit or snobbery on Robin’s part, but because Robin seemed to have a compulsive need to be always “on” and performing. When he told me this, I remembered an interview with Robin I had read. The interviewer had asked about his earliest memories of performing and Robin explained that his mother was the unhappy wife of an auto company executive and as her only child, he constantly entertained her to try to make her happy (and presumably get her attention and love.) Those two pieces of information always stuck with me over the years. So when I learned of his suicide, which occurred on August 11, 2014, I was very saddened, but it also came as no surprise to me.

Atlas Struck Out

      As a Christian, I often wonder about the popularity of Ayn Rand with people claiming to be conservative. Her best-selling novel Atlas Shrugged, regarded by some conservatives as a bible on capitalism and often quoted by members of the Tea Party, is notorious for popularizing a philosophy that insists selfishness is a virtue. Rand is not Christian (in fact, she attacks Christianity in her novel) and unapologetically atheist, proof that many “conservative” Randians don’t bother to seriously examine or perhaps even bother to read the novel which runs over a thousand pages.
      Fortunately for people who don’t like to read, the three part novel was turned into three movies by a Randian producer. (Part I was released in 2011, Part II in 2012, and Part III just recently on September 12, 2014.) Strangely, considering Randians espouse excellent achievement, the productions resemble a made-for-tv movie series for a second rate cable channel. If you don’t believe me, try to watch them. (Note: none of the principal actors in Parts I, II, and III remain the same which might confuse you.) The movies were a flop with critics and most audiences, but the hype and controversy surrounding their releases has helped fuel more sales of the novel, which has been selling well since its publication in 1957 and was voted the second most influential book in America after the Bible in 1991. 
      This disturbing fact begs the question—why is Rand regarded as an authority on business and capitalism? Apart from one unfortunate incident in her childhood of the Bolsheviks appropriating her father’s business, she has little to no practical experience in the area of business. I was blessed to be friends with Julian Moody, a veteran who fought and risked his life in World War II to defeat just the sort of tyranny that Rand, from a safe distance, pompously railed against. This kind, humble, selfless man was also an executive coach and management consultant for over fifty years and worked with many companies both large and small throughout the United States. He also volunteered countless hours as a mentor and coach for individuals, nonprofits, and businesses in Santa Barbara where he lived since 1965. I was fortunate to spend many hours talking with Julian who patiently answered my many questions about his work. His experience in business was completely contrary to what Rand professes in her work and philosophy.

Happiness and Work

      Most of us spend more waking time at work than we do in any other place. And our place of work presumably becomes the main playing ground in which we exercise the pursuit of happiness, an unalienable right written in the Declaration of Independence. But are we truly motivated by the pursuit of happiness, especially in the context of work? Management consultant and executive coaching pioneer Julian Moody and I discuss happiness in the workplace in the topic: "Happy People – What We Can Learn from Them." This topic is part of our project Dialogues with Julian Moody: On Life, Business, Sustainability, and Other Things.



Constructive Capitalism and Dr. Bronner

Dr. Emanuel Bronner 1908 - 1997
      I can't remember the first place where I came across Dr. Bronner's liquid soap (you know, the one with the peculiarly verbose label with references to Spaceship Earth, Halley's Comet and All One God Faith!) - it was many years ago - but I do remember my reaction. I thought, "Wow, this guy is a wacko," but I bought the soap anyways. I figured if he was honest enough to rant like a lunatic on his label, then his soap must be honest and pure as stated in the simple ingredients list. Sure enough, the soap was very good.

      Dr. Bronner was a third generation soap maker descended from Orthodox Jewish soap manufacturers in Germany. The first part of his life was marked by tragedy - his parents were killed in the Holocaust, and later, he was committed to an insane asylum where he endured barbaric electroshock treatments for his bizarre (but at least peaceful) views. He managed to escape from the institution to California where he founded his soap company in 1948. Fortunately, his latter days were marked by blessing. He reconciled with his abandoned children (so committed was he to his cause of uniting Spaceship Earth, they spent much of their childhood in foster homes) who in turn helped run the company. In spite of a sadly complicated and imperfect past, Dr. Bronner, in his geriatric years, enjoyed helming a successful family enterprise as well as an Eden-like existence of nude sunbathing and eating fresh guacamole, his favorite health food, on a regular basis.

The Problem? of Emotions

      The master actor and storyteller Charlie Chaplin once observed: the mark of an idiot is all feeling and no intellect, and the mark of an arch-criminal (or sociopath) is all intellect and no feeling.
      The two extremes - all feeling or no feeling - present problems, no one can argue. Some balance of emotions is needed along with emotions themselves - life (and for that matter storytelling) would fall flat without them. So why are emotions so often judged and feared? And have we become increasingly numbed and deadened to feeling? Some argue that one of the reasons actors, storytellers, and especially moviemakers are so highly paid and respected in our society today (people in the dramatic arts used to be considered low-lifes) is because of their skill in conveying and creating emotional response. The argument essentially goes - we have become so deadened and deprived of emotional expression in the grind, rat race, and busyness of modern times, that the only time we feel alive is when we watch movies. Whether you agree with this or not, it's certainly something to think about.
      So are emotions (or a lack of emotions) a problem in modern times?

(Management consultant and executive coaching pioneer Julian Moody and I discuss the issue of emotions in the business world in the topics: "The Mystery of the Automobile Company Widget" and "The Engineer Who Claimed, 'There is no such thing as emotions'." These topics are part of our project Dialogues with Julian Moody: On Life, Business, Sustainability, and Other Things.)

Symptoms Versus Causes

      The word heal in English comes from an old Saxon word which means "to make whole." The words wholesome and holistic come from the same root, and the definition of holistic describes nature as a unity, made up of wholes which are more than a mere sum of its disparate parts. (Interestingly, the English word holy comes from the same base that is seen in heal and health - 'hail', 'halig', and 'hali' which means "whole, entire, unimpaired" and in a religious context, "unsullied.")
      Terms such as whole and holistic are in vogue now, maybe in response to one of the most unfortunate ironies of our times - in spite of all of our progress, a lack of wholeness predominates. Dysfunction, disease, and ailments continue to hold sway and cancer is epidemic. Modern medicine is impressive in its advancements but often criticized for its lack of understanding of whole systems especially in the area of preventive health care. And the main emphasis seems to be on the elimination of symptoms rather than the healing of root causes. Symptoms are treated as problems in and of themselves - pharmaceutical drugs are readily prescribed and purchased, and often the connection of symptoms to causes is not thoroughly examined or even made.
      In spite of all of our accumulation of knowledge in the information age and our so-called advancements, we remain blind or seem to become more blind to the whole truth of how things are caused or connected. In the industrial age, specialization and compartmentalization is the norm, and the ability and desire to see the whole picture, regard things holistically, is considered kooky.

(This blindness is also prevalent in the mundane day-to-day operations of the business world. Management consultant and executive coaching pioneer Julian Moody and I discuss this in the topic "Symptoms Versus Causes" which is part of our project Dialogues with Julian Moody: On Life, Business, Sustainability, and Other Things.)

Are We Truly Productive?

     "Beware the barrenness of a busy life," quipped Socrates over 2,400 years ago, but sadly, barren busyness seems to be the norm of our times. In our industrial, technological age, we idolize productivity and we're in a constant state of doing and busyness, but are we truly productive? Or are we living wasteful, reactive lives full of unquestioned habit and routine (an observation of many old people when they reflect on their lives)? Business people are especially lauded for being practical and productive, but are they any better? Management consultant and executive coaching pioneer Julian Moody personally worked with hundreds of managers, top executives, and presidents over a course of fifty years. In his long career, he found otherwise. Julian and I discuss this in the topic "No Concept of Priorities" which is part of our project Dialogues with Julian Moody: On Life, Business, Sustainability, and Other Things.