Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Forgiveness is Easy: We've Been Doing it Our Entire Lives

“I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a man’s bad actions, but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner.  For a long time I used to think this a silly straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life - namely myself.  However much I might dislike my own cowardice, or conceit, or greed, I went on loving myself.  There had never been the slightest difficulty about it.” - C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, p 177)
  

We all love ourselves.  We love our family, our school, our city, our country, our culture.  We love our political party, our opinions, our sense of humor, our wit.  We love our quirks, our unique view of the world, and we are willing to forgive our little imperfections because "we're inherently good people who occasionally make mistakes."

We forgive our own rudeness (because somebody had to say it)
We don't mind our own stereotypes (the stereotype wouldn't exist if it weren't true, right?)

We forgive our own dishonesty (it was an innocent lie, and no one got hurt)
We don't mind our own greed (at least we want it for the right reasons?)

The Golden Rule was never so applicable.  Instead of just "doing," how about we THINK of others as we think of ourselves?

We don't have to assume all people think the same way we do about all topics.  But might we assume that the reason for their view is just as valid as ours?

Can't we assume that people who make mistakes are just as good as us, they simply make different mistakes?

It reminds me of the phrase: "God, Help me to love those who sin differently than I."

We judge people.  We have to in order to live and get anything done.  But we don't have to be mean, or assign blame or evil intent to every action we think is bad.  We recognize bad behavior, we try to protect ourselves and others from being victims.  But we don't have to demonize the person making mistakes.  We can see them as they are - because they are just like us.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Deuteronomy Makes Sense!

Why are there so many rules in religion?

Are all the rules of my religion “Eternal Laws” based on the doctrine of God?  Are they Principles based on that Doctrine? Are they temporary applications of doctrine given for a specific purpose? 

I am a member of the LDS or “Mormon” church.  I was born in the faith.  I believe it, I try to live it, and I frequently ponder upon my faith, my religion, and why I believe what I believe. 

Which led me to a realization – The book "Doctrine and Covenants" is modern day Deuteronomy. 

Doctrine and Covenants is a book of Scripture recognized by the Mormon faith.  It details many revelations from God given to Joseph Smith and a few other early prophets of the Church.

While the majority of the book says how to organize the church – it also lays out rules.  Here are a few of the most well known:

No drinking Alcohol, using Tobacco, or ingesting “Hot Drinks” later defined as “Coffee and Tea.” 
(Besides all the rules in Doctrine and Covenants the church today has many more rules such as “don’t date until age 16” etc...)

Deuteronomy also has rules.  (613 if I counted correctly) 

Don’t eat Pigs. Don’t wear clothes with 2 kinds of fabric. Don’t shave.  Kill anyone who worships a different God. Etc..

These (to me) sound silly or just plain wrong.  I mean really - What’s wrong with eating bacon or wearing a poly/cotton blend?  I also can't ever imagine murdering a man because of his belief.

I eat pork all the time including last night for dinner.  I don’t insult those who avoid pork, but I don’t see it as a sin. 

BUT – I have never had a drop of alcohol or coffee.  If I ever do I expect to be in some trouble with my church and with my God and I will need to repent.   

DOES THAT MAKE ANY SENSE? 

How can I shrug off and ignore Old Testament Scripture that seems silly to me (Even though it’s the word of God) yet be so vehemently sure that I must live my church's diet rules?  Doesn’t that seem hypocritical??? 

I believe my faith.  I follow it.  But I don’t follow blindly.  I obey it while questioning, pondering, searching, reading, debating, etc…

That is when I came to 2 realizations:

Point #1.  Not every APPLICATION or RULE  is eternal in nature.  The doctrine is eternal.  The way in which it is enforced or taught to the people is not.

For instance.  I believe God had a reason for all the rules set forth in the Old Testament.  They may have been to teach the people obedience, or to set them apart from the unbelievers.  Maybe the "unclean animals" had diseases that were more difficult to kill.  Maybe some laws weren't even based on an eternal principle, but they just made life easier. 
Like the reason to not drink coffee and tea - might be because of caffeine, or maybe because God just wants the people of his church to stand out and be different in some way. I could give lots of possible explanations - but I'd probably be wrong.

Here's a current example:  ALCOHOL
I believe no one should drink alcohol, and in our day God has commanded us not to drink it. (D&C 89:7)
I also believe Jesus drank wine.  I know some people will insist it was grape juice.  While that's possible - I think it's unlikely.  I think He and his disciples drank alcohol.  
He also told Joseph Smith that alcohol was okay as long as the members of the church made it themselves, and that one day Christ would drink wine with Joseph Smith and Moroni and many more people. (D&C 27:3-5)
So how is that not contradictory???

How can it be a sin now but it wasn't before?  Does that mean that alcohol is not inherently evil?  I'm a psychiatrist, I have treated hundred's of people for alcohol intoxication.  I've helped them through rehab after DUI's and I've seen their families torn apart by alcoholism - so I can certainly make a scientific and social argument as to why alcohol should never be ingested.  But that's the reasoning of a man.  

Using that same "reason" I could read you multiple studies showing that a glass of wine per week is beneficial to one's health.  I could probably justify and excuse myself right into a drunken stupor.

No matter how much science or reason I come up with - It won't change the words written in section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants.  I can say I believe the book to be scripture, or I can ignore it and drink anyway.  But I either believe it or I don't.  That's it.


Point #2.  I don't know which rules are eternal and which might be temporary.

I can't say what is eternal law and what isn't.  Some laws from Deuteronomy still apply today while others don't.  Some rules were direct revelation from God while others may have just made sense and helped things run smoother.  I don't know which are which.


I have many friends in the church who ask:
1. Why couldn't blacks hold the priesthood until the 1970's?
2. Why was plural marriage ever allowed?  Why isn't it now?
3. Why can't women hold the priesthood, or have certain leadership positions in the church?
4. Why did the missionary age change?

I have homosexual Mormon friends who believe that the church's stance against gay marriage is temporary, and one day it will be changed and they can marry whom they want.


My answer:  I don't know.  I am not a prophet, and I don't pretend to know God's thoughts.  I attempt to learn what He has said and follow that until He gives different instructions.

My point is: Deuteronomy finally makes sense - It's the 3000 year old version of The Doctrine and Covenants.


(Caveat - as with all posts - there is a chance I'm completely wrong)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review: The Witch in the Wood

This is a very strange book. (Book 2 of T.H. White's The Once and Future King)

It seems like five random and unconnected plots which all begin but never finish or join together. Granted - I have not yet read the sequels so I don't know if these plots will make sense later, but for now it was just weird.  (It was also later retitled "The Queen of Air and Darkness)

It's a collection of short stories. Some are silly: like the tale of the questing beast. Some are gruesomely disturbing: like the take of Gawaine and his brothers killing the Unicorn.

The only parts I really enjoyed we're the conversations with Arthur, Kay, and Merlyn.
Arthur learns much about the nature of war in this book.  Merlyn is constantly teaching him, helping him, and giving him examples.  He teaches Arthur that his problem is that he doens't care about the serfs, the foot soldiers.  Arthur and his knights have fun in war, and earn huge ransoms, while the people are murdered, raped, pillaged, etc...
Here are my two favorite lessons from Merlyn:
1. Merlyn tells Arthur there is never a reason to go to war, unless the other man starts it.
Arthur points out "If one side was starving the other by some means or other - some peaceful, economic means which were not actually warlike - then the starving side might have to fight it's way out."
Merlyn answers: “There is no excuse for war, none whatever, and whatever the wrong which your nation might be doing to mine–short of war–my nation would be in the wrong if it started a war so as to redress it. A murderer, for instance, is not allowed to plead that his victim was rich and oppressing him–so why should a nation be allowed to? Wrongs have to be redressed by reason, not by force.”

2. Later Kay tells Merlyn he has thought of a good reason to go to war.
"There might be a king who had discovered a new way of life for human beings — you know, something which would be good for them. It might even be the only way from saving them from destruction. Well, if the human beings were too wicked or too stupid to accept his way, he might have to force it on them, in their own interests by the sword."
The magician clenched his fists, twisted his gown into screws, and began to shake all over.
"Very interesting," he said in a trembling voice. "Very interesting. There was just such a man when I was young — an Austrian who invented a new way of life and convinced himself that he was the chap to make it work. He tried to impose his reformation by the sword, and plunged the civilized world into misery and chaos. But the thing which this fellow had overlooked, my friend, was that he had had a predecessor in the reformation business, called Jesus Christ. Perhaps we may assume that Jesus knew as much as the Austrian did about saving people. But the odd thing is that Jesus did not turn the disciples into storm troopers, burn down the Temple at Jerusalem, and fix the blame on Pontius Pilate. On the contrary, he made it clear that the business of the philosopher was to make ideas available, and not to impose them on people."

This is part of the joy of having a character like Merlyn in the book.  He can draw examples from any era, and use any example he wants. He mentions both Jesus and Hitler in this example (which is impressive since the book was published in 1939, before the majority of Hitler's horrors had occured)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Book Review: The Sword in the Stone

This book is wonderful, imaginative, and very insightful.  It is the first of five books that comprise "The Once and Future King" by T.H. White.
It's the story of King Arthur's childhood education.  Arthur doesn't know his true lineage and is being raised as an orphan child.  One day he meets the magician Merlyn who agrees to be his tutor.
Surprisingly, I found that the book matched pretty well with my memory of the 1963 Disney film - it is the story of Wart (Arthur), Kay, Sir Ector, Merlyn and Archimedes.

The characters obviously are much deeper and the story much more enthralling and deep than the movie version.

Some of my favorite parts include:
1. Seeing Kay as a fairly nice brother who even gets some good education from Merlyn himself.
2. Wart is changed into many MANY more animals in the book.
3. Wart and Kay go on one adventure together with Robin Hood (whose real title is "Robin Wood")
4. When Arthur is asked by Merlyn what he would have wished for in life he answers: "A proper father and mother, so that I could be a knight errant... and I should have called myself The Black Knight."
(which of course led me to think about the moment in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when Arthur battles "The Black Knight")


(sorry if that was really random and childish - but that's what I thought of and I couldn't stop laughing.

The best part comes after 6 years of tutelage with Merlyn.  Wart asks to be turned into another animal and Merlyn tells him:"This is the last time I shall be able to turn you into anything" because Merlyn's purpose and the magic were reserved for Wart's education.  He sends wart to meet the badger for his final lesson.  The badger tells Wart the following story:

People often ask, as an idle question, whether the process of evolution began with the chicken or the egg. Was there an egg out of which the first chicken came, or did a chicken lay the first egg? I am in a position to say that the first thing created was the egg.
When God had manufactured all the eggs out of which the fishes and the serpents and the birds and the mammals and even the duck-billed platypus would eventually emerge, He called the embryos before him, and saw that they were good.
Perhaps I ought to explain,' added the badger, lowering his papers nervously and looking at Wart over the top of them, 'that all embryos look very much the same. They are what you are before you are born - and, whether you are going to be a tadpole or a peacock or a cameleopard or a man, when you are an embryo you just look like a peculiarly repulsive and helpless human being. I continue as follows:
The embryos stood in front of God, with their feeble hands clasped politely over their stomachs and their heavy heads hanging down respectfully, and God addressed them.
He said: "Now, you embryos, here you are, all looking exactly the same, and We are going to give you the choice of what you want to be. When you grow up you will get bigger anyway, but We are pleased to grant you another gift as well. You may alter any parts of yourselves into anything which you think will be useful to you in later life. For instance, at the moment you cannot dig. Anybody who would like to turn his hands into a pair of spades or garden forks is allowed to do so. Or, to put it another way, at present you can only use your mouths for eating. Anybody who would like to use his mouth as an offensive weapon, can change it by asking and be a corkindrill or sabre-toothed tiger. Now then, step up and choose your tools, but remember that what you choose you will grow into, and will have to stick to."
"All the embryos thought the matter over politely, and then, one by one, they stepped up before the eternal throne. They were allowed two or three specializations, so that some chose to use their arms as flying machines and their mouths as weapons, or crackers, or drillers, or spoons, while others selected to use their bodies as boats and their hands as oars. We badgers thought very hard and decided to ask for three boons. We wanted to change our skins for shields, our mouths for weapons and our arms for garden forks. These boons were granted. Everybody specialized in one way or another, and some of us in very queer ones. For instance, one of the desert lizards decided to swap his whole body for blotting-paper, and one of the toads who lived in the drouthy antipodes decided simply to be a water-bottle.
"The asking and granting took up two long days--they were the fifth and sixth, so far as I remember--and at the very end of the sixth day, just before it was time to knock off for Sunday, they had got through all the little embryos except one. This embryo was Man.
" 'Well, Our little man,' said God. 'You have waited till the last, and slept on your decision, and We are sure you have been thinking hard all the time. What can We do for you?'
" 'Please God,' said the embryo, 'I think that You made me in the shape which I now have for reasons best known to Yourselves, and that it would be rude to change. If I am to have my choice I will stay as I am. I will not alter any of the parts which You gave me, for other and doubtless inferior tools, and I will stay a defenceless embryo all my life, doing my best to make myself a few feeble implements out of the wood, iron and the other materials which You have seen fit to put before me. If I want a boat I will try to construct it out of trees, and if I want to fly, I will put together a chariot to do it for me. Probably I have been very silly in refusing to take advantage of Your kind offer, but I have done my very best to think it over carefully, and now hope that the feeble decision of this small innocent will find favour with Yourselves.'
" 'Well done,' exclaimed the Creator in delighted tones. 'Here, all you embryos, come here with your beaks and whatnots to look upon Our first Man. He is the only one who has guessed Our riddle, out of all of you , and We have great pleasure in conferring upon him the Order of Dominion over the Fowls of the Air, and the Beasts of the Earth, and the Fishes of the Sea. Now let the rest of you get along, and love and multiply, for it is time to knock off for the week-end. As for you, Man, you will be a naked tool all your life, though a user of tools. You will look like an embryo till they bury you, but all the others will be embryos before your might. Eternally undeveloped, you will always remain potential in Our image, able to see some of Our sorrows and to feel some of Our joys. We are partly sorry for you, Man, but partly hopeful. Run along then, and do your best. And listen, Man, before you go . . .'
" 'Well?' asked Adam, turning back from his dismissal.
" 'We were only going to say,' said God shyly, twisting Their hands together. 'Well, We were just going to say, God bless you.' "

 Marvelous passages like that one make this book great.  The author chooses to use his immense knowledge of falconry, hunting, jousting and science and combine them with his ideals about the world, man, and religion.  T. H. White weaves them all into a story that enthralls and entertains.

I loved it.  I'm now reading Book 2 of The Once and Future King: The Witch in the Wood.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Psychiatrist, not Psychic

The horror just keeps growing.

Some of my friends think I'm paranoid because the new gun law scares me.

Yes there are gun issues, gun rights, second amendment, self protection and other issues.

This is about my role as a psychiatrist.  This is about the state and federal government asking me to be a psychic.

The newly passed New York gun law states:

"Section 9.46 of the Mental Hygiene Law will require mental health professionals, in the exercise of reasonable professional judgment, to report if an individual they are treating is likely to engage in conduct that will cause serious harm to him- or herself or others."

THAT SCARES ME TO DEATH!

Why?  We already have a requirement to report anyone who is am imminent danger to themselves or others.  It's called a 72 hour legal hold.  If someone is an immediate threat to themselves I can call security or the police and have that person held against their will for up to 72 hours.

There is also the Tarasoff Law which requires me to warn a potential victim.  If a patient of mine makes a threat against a specific person - I have duty to warn that person or get the police to protect them or something to better ensure their safety.

This new law is different.  It doesn't ask a psychiatrist to look at an immediate threat (which is all we can do).  This asks us to predict if a patient is "likely" to be violent.

Do you have any idea how horrific psychiatrists are at predicting suicide or violent acts?

In the very short term - we're pretty good.  When psychiatrists were asked to predict which patients would be violent WHILE INSIDE the psych hospital - they were right 82% of the time.

Predicting OUTPATIENT violence in the next 3 days we get it right about 65% of the time.

After 1 week our predictions are no better than a flip of the coin in fact we're worse.  Psychiatrists trying to predict violent behavior more than a month out were wrong more than 50% of the time.

SO - how liable are we as psychiatrists for our patients behavior?  How long are we liable?  Does this new gun law change that?

Suing of a psychiatrist for failure to intervene has already happened.  The Aurora Theater shooting in July 2012 has led one victim's spouse to sue the shooter's Psychiatrist.

The shooter was making violent threats in June

OVER 30 DAYS LATER he shot those people in the theater.  The wife of one of the victims state's that the psychiatrist should have put him on a 72 hour legal hold when he made violent threats to her in June.

I wasn't there, I don't know what happened.   I know I have patients threaten me all the time because they don't get the treatment they had expected. I rarely put patients on a legal hold because unless I believe they are an immediate danger to themselves or others, I'm not going to revoke their civil liberties.

I doubt the case will be decided against the doctor - but that's because it's in Colorado.  What if this case were brought forth in New York?

Can we sue the shooter's mom?  After all - she likely knows him much better than the psychiatrist.  What about school teachers, friends, counselors, etc? 

What else am I supposed to be able to predict?  Robbery, Suicide, Infidelity, going AWOL???

This is a scary slippery slope.  I understand the need for mental health treatment, and for reducing gun violence - but calling a medical doctor a mind reader is, well, insane.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book Review: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Great Book.

It is both wonderful and unexpected.  I remember seeing the movie as a child, the book follows much the same plot, but is so much better for so many reasons.

It is the story of a young mouse family.  The mother has been widowed, and her young son is sick.  She knows that "moving day" is approaching because they've been living in a cinder block in the farmers field all winter so they could find easy food left over from harvest.  But spring is coming, and she knows the farmer will plow right over her little home and smash it to bits.  She needs to move, but her son is too weak, and the move would likely kill him.

She needs help.

The story then weaves a wonderful tapestry of events and characters including her befriending of a crow, seeking help from the wise yet predatory owl, daring to challenge a cat, and her need to meet with the mysterious Rats of NIMH.  They are strange rats.  They seem coordinated, defensive, intelligent.  They steal things from the farmer, like electrical wiring.  What are they doing?  What are they building?  Why did the owl tell her to seek their help?  What can they do?

The book has two very different halves.  The first half is all about Mrs. Frisby.  Then when she finally talks to the rats, the author goes into flashback mode and spends a great amount of time discussing the rats, where they came from, what they're doing, and why.

When I figured out what NIMH stands for I had to laugh at myself.  I should have known all along, it was right in front of my face.

National Institute of Mental Health

The rats were all experimental lab rats at a mental health research facility.

When I think back to the movie I am disappointed.  The beauty and wonder of the book is both in Mrs. Frisby's daring love for her family, and in the rats.

The movie ruined the rats.  It took what they really are and where they came from (which makes sense)- and replaced it with something mythical and magical.  The rats suddenly have magical powers and give Mrs. Frisby a magical amulet.  They aren't scientifically advanced with amazing minds.  They aren't able to figure out complex ideas like electricity - no, the movie gives them magic.

It ruins it.  It ruins the whole point of the rats, who they are and how they got that way.

The book is marvelous. 

The movie, though cinematically advanced for 1982, is disappointing in comparison.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Book Review: The Secret Garden


I have seen the film.  I have seen the musical. 
Now I have read the book, and to make things better, my kids read it with me.
I don't really know what this book would be like for an adult to read on their own - unless they choose to read it aloud doing their best Yorkshire accent.  That was half the fun.

The book is sweet.  It teaches lessons, it tells about the world and life from the eyes of children.  It teaches us about change, about friendship, and about how often we become exactly what others think we will.

It shows why it is so important to see people: not as they are, but as they may become.

The beginning of the final chapter is the most powerful, and it is the only moment when the author stops to really just drive home the message.

"Thoughts - just mere thoughts - are as powerful as electric batteries - as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison.  To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous  as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body.  If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live."
"Surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes in to his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one.  Two things cannot be in one place.  Where you tend a rose my lad, a thistle cannot grow."


The book is wonderful.  I recommend it to all.  It is meaningful because you can feel that the author knows how it feels to go through those same changes.
The author was speaking from personal experience:  Read more about her own life here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Book Review: Good to Great

 
This book was not great, in fact I'm not even sure it was good.  At least as far as writing is concerned.  My friends in business have told me this book is amazing, genius, and has ideas that have helped many businesses succeed.  I believe all that to be true.  nevertheless, in all of the authors research it seems he failed to do one thing - "get the right person on the bus."  The problem is Jim Collins himself.

That may sound harsh to use his own words against him, but I think his writing, style, personality, and interpretation of data are what held this book back.  Granted, the book has sold over 3 million copies, and the only thing I've published is a journal article that less than 100 people will ever read. (Here it is in all its esoteric glory)

But let's start with the positive!  This book was a great idea.  Look at all the publicly traded companies and find ones that were good for many years and then at some point made a transition and did 3 times better than the market average for 15 years.

The researchers weren't looking at new start-ups or terrible companies that turned it around.  They wanted to see if companies that were already good could become and remain great.

I think that is a noble and worthwhile endeavor.

They found companies 11 companies that fit that criteria:

1. Abbott Laboratories
2. Circuit City
3. Fannie Mae
4. Gillette
5. Kimberly-Clark
6. Kroger
7. Nucor
8. Philip Morris (now Altria)
9. Pitney Bowes
10. Walgreens
11. Wells Fargo

The author tried to find what those companies did differently.  What made their transition?  He compared each company to a competitor.  Both companies had to be at about the same level in the same business, but the other company never made the transition.
Jim Collins had a good idea: To try to find the difference between good companies and great companies.

He came up with seven common traits of those 11 companies:
1. Leaders who are humble, but driven to do what's best for the company.
2. They "got the right people on the bus," then figured out where to go. Finding the right people and trying them out in different positions.
3. They confront the brutal truth of the situation, yet at the same time, never give up hope.
4. They focus on Three overlapping circles: What lights your fire ("passion")? What could you be best in the world at ("best at") What makes you money ("driving resource")?
5. They keep a Culture of Discipline
6. Using technology to accelerate growth
7. The additive effect of many small initiatives; they act on each other like compound interest.

These ideas seem just fine.  Until we get to what the author did wrong.
First - that's not what he called those 7 traits.  He tried really REALLY hard to come up with catchy names or stories to go along with each one.  He tried to use parables or easy to understand examples.  A few times he succeeded, but most time he failed.

Here are the seven names for those traits:
1. Level 5 Leadership (I still don't know how this name is supposed to be catchy or mean anything)
2. First Who, Then What. (this works)
3. Confront the Brutal Facts: The Stockdale Paradox. (Meh)
4. Hedgehog Concept. (What?  I mean what?  The idea was great, the name was moronic)
5. Rinsing the Cottage Cheese (silly example - it didn't show discipline, it showed OCD)
6. Technology Accelerators (yeah, it works)
7. The Flywheel (this example was pretty good, the visual was easy and applicable)

There are also inconsistencies within the book.  In the first chapter he makes a big point of saying you shouldn't bring in new leaders.  They need to be home grown.  You need a person who came up through the ranks, not some outside big-shot personality.
Then in the second chapter he says the most important thing is to have the right people.  Get rid of those who aren't driven, responsible, moving your company in the right direction.

So which is it?  The best people come from within - or change them out and get the right people?

The end of his book talks about companies that kept changing their direction - they repeatedly stopped the momentum of "the flywheel."  He says the constant changing was bad because they didn't have a "hedgehog concept."  The good companies made a change to one ideal concept and stuck with it.

I wanted to say - "OF COURSE THEY STUCK WITH IT - IT WORKED!"  The ideas that didn't work, had to be switched. It seems like a "no duh" observation. The successful companies found an idea that worked and stuck with it and became great.  The other companies tried and idea that failed, had to try a new idea, and never developed momentum because none of their new plans worked.

There are two other obvious problems with the book: Circuit City and Fannie Mae.

The book was published in 2001.  Those two companies later completely failed, and the other nine didn't fare much better.  If you invested in all 11 companies in 2001 when the book was published, you would have fared worse than S&P 500. 
So these companies had a great moment, a great idea, a great leader, a great change.  But it was unsustained, at least beyond 15 years.  I'll admit that 15 years is a long time, and great for the company, investors, and even customers.  But let's not kid ourselves.  Hindsight is 20/20.  It's easy to see the great company when their great.  Like his "Egg" example (see below) - the author looked back and thought he found what made the egg into a chicken.  Turns out he was just as wrong as all those other folks he mocked in the book.

So - The book had a great idea, but it lacked a "Level 5 Leader" to make it work.

I give the book a C.  There are things wroth learning - but the book as a whole was only average.

Here are some of my Favorite Quotes from the book:

 - Greatness is not a function of circumstance.  Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice. - p. 11
One ought not to reject the data merely because one does not like what the data implies. - p. 16
 - The number one factor was luck. - p. 33
If you begin with "who " rather than "what" you can more easily adapt to a changing world. - p. 42
 - Great vision without great people is irrelevant. - p. 42
If you have the right executives on the bus, they will do everything within their power to build a great company, not because of what they will "get" for it, but because they simply cannot imagine settling for anything less. - p. 50
 - The only way to deliver to the people who are achieving is to not burden them with the people who are not achieving. - p. 53
When in doubt, don't hire - keep looking. - p. 54
 - The moment you feel the needs to tightly manage someone, you've made a hiring mistake. - p. 56
No matter what we achieve, if we don't spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect, we cannot possibly have a great life. - p. 62
 - Charisma can be as much a liability as an asset. - p. 73
There's a huge difference between the opportunity to 'have your say' and the opportunity to be heard. - p. 74
 - The key then lies not in better information, but in turning information into information that cannot be ignored. - p. 79
Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties... AND at the same time, confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be. - p. 86
 - Hedgehog Concept: - p. 95
     1.What can you be the best in the world at?
     2.What drives your economic engine?
     3.What are you deeply passionate about?
The only way to remain great is to keep applying the fundamental principles that made you great. - p. 108
 - The purpose of bureacracy is to compensate for incompetence. - p. 121
Picture an egg just sitting there.  No one pays it much attention until, one day, the egg cracks open and out jumps a chicken!  All the major magazines and newspapers jump on the event, writing feature stories - "The Transformation of Egg to Chicken!" "The Remarkable Revolution of the Egg!" "Stunning Turnaround at Egg!" - as if the egg had undergone some overnight metamorphosis, radically altering itself into a chicken. - p. 168
 - What do the right people want more than almost anything else?  They want to be part of a winning team. - p. 177
When the right people see a simple plan born of confronting the brutal facts - a plan developed from understanding, not bravado - they are likely to say, "That'll work. Count me in." - p. 177
 - The drive for mergers and acquisitions comes less from sound reasoning and more from the fact that doing deals is a much more exciting way to spend your day than doing actual work. - p. 180

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Religious IQ: Who really knows their beliefs?


Who really knows their religious facts?  Who can name the first book in Bible, tell you when the Jewish Sabbath begins,  name the Holy Book of Islam, and tell you who founded the Mormon church?
 
Pew Research Forum didn't ask how well people lived their religion, they asked them about facts.  Do people know their religions and the religions of others?


Test yourself: Right Here
Who do you expect to know the most overall?  
Evangelicals? Mormons? Jews? Catholics? 

The best scores overall were by the Atheists/Agnostics.  Jews and Mormons were a close second and third.  

After that there was quite a gap till you reached Protestants, "nothing in particular" and then Catholics.

Here are the exact figures: (Percent Correct out of 32 questions) 

Overall Religious Knowledge
1. Atheist/Agnostic (65%)
2. Jews ( 64%)
3. Mormons ( 63%)
4. Protestant (50%)
    a. White Evangelical  (55%)
    b. White Mainline (49%)
    c. Black Protestant (42%) 
5. "Nothing in particular" (48%)
6. Catholic (46%)
    a. White Catholic (50%)
    b. Hispanic Catholic (36%)

 - Anybody else find it interesting that the Atheists/Agnostics scored the highest?  That's right - those who some call "Godless" actually know the most.  You can try to accuse them of not living according to God's laws, or not praying or believing or whatever else you want - but never say they don't know what's out there.  They know their stuff, and they know it better then every religious group polled.

SPECIFICS
Let's look at Christian knowledge.

Who knows the most about Christian religions and who teaches what?

1. Mormons
2. White Evangelicals
3. Atheists/Agnostics

What if we don't ask what each Christian religion believes - but just stick to the Bible.  
Who answered the most Biblical questions right?

1. Mormons
2. White Evangelicals
3. Atheists/Agnostics

Yeah - Turns out Mormons and White Evangelicals really know their Bible.  The 4th highest score was by Black Protestants, then Jews, White Catholics, "Nothing in Particular" and Hispanic Catholics.

Let's look at other religions.  If we stop asking questions about General Christianity and move to other topics how does the knowledge base hold up?

Knowledge of Judaism?

1. Jews
2. Atheists/Agnostics
3. Mormons

Knowledge of Mormonism?

1. Mormons
2. Atheists/Agnostics
3. Jews

Knowledge of World Religions? (Islam, Buddhism, Hindu and others)

1. Jews
2. Atheists/Agnostics
3. Mormons

Knowledge of what Atheism means?

1. Atheists/Agnostics AND White Evangelicals
3. Mormons


What if we leave religion entirely and ask general knowledge questions.  How educated are all the people in the entire study as far as knowledge of Politics, Science, History and Literature:

1. Atheists/Agnostics
2. Jews
3. Mormons


Are you noticing a common theme?  


Atheists, Jews, and Mormons are very well informed people.  They know what they believe, what others believe, and they know the world around them.

I'm not going to make judgment calls about why, or comment about any other religions.  I think knowledge is power and helps diminish prejudice.  May we all think higher of those around us, be a little less quick to judge, and may we all work a little harder to understand our professed beliefs, as well as those of others.

(Here is the Pew study with it's complete results)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Encores and Standing Ovations: They Must Be Earned

When was the last time you went to a concert and they DIDN'T perform an Encore number? 

I mean seriously?!  Is it even special any more? 

I feel like this is one of those "back when I was young" posts.  I used to think an encore meant something.  It used to mean that the concert was over, but the people were cheering so loud, and kept clapping so long, that the performers couldn't help but give them more.  They had done a great show, an amazing show, and the audience wanted more.  They yearned for more, they yelled and clapped and pleaded for more because the night was too perfect to end - they wanted it to last just a little bit longer.

THAT - is when you play an encore. 

There are very few times that an Encore should be planned.
Sure - you can have some songs prepared  to play as an encore if it's really deserved, but you should only plan on doing an encore ahead of time when you have something in reserve that is REALLY amazing that doesn't fit in the regular performance.

FOR EXAMPLE: I went to see the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert.  (I watched it in a theater in my hometown, I couldn't really afford the money or time to fly to London and see it live in the O2.)
They sang the entire musical of Les Miserables.  It is a set show, with all the songs and roles already set out.  The only people watching the concert are likely to be HUGE fans already.  They're the kind of fans who can tell you who played the lead characters in the original Broadway version, and they know every song by heart. 

THAT is when you are allowed to plan an Encore.  They planned to bring the original 1985 cast on stage and have them sing a huge production number to please the fans who adored the concert:


Then they had 4 different singers perform the most heartfelt and slowest song of the show in perfect harmony:


You can hear the audience cheer the moment they realize what is happening - they can't help it.  They love the music, the singers, the moment.  Their passion and excitement drives them to plead for more.

THAT is the feeling and moment that deserves an Encore.

It is also the feeling and moment that deserves a Standing Ovation.

I have been at far too many concerts where the audience only stood because they felt obliged to do so.  The performance ended, they sat and clapped, some people stood, then the rest of us couldn't see the performers bowing so we leaned forward in our chairs and slowly stood.
Then at least we could see and didn't feel out of place by still sitting. 

Don't get me wrong, lots of shows are good.  They deserve the money you paid for the ticket, and applause at the end.  They even merit waiting around for signatures or pictures.  But do they all merit standing ovations?

Have we cheapened the concert experience by making standing ovations and encores mandatory?

If we treat every performance like it was special, then how do we show the performers the difference when they do something REALLY amazing?  How do we say "I know I stood up and yelled 'encore' the last 16 times you performed - but this time I really mean it!"

It's like the boy who cried 'wolf.'  Eventually people doubt your sincerity, and then when you really want to get your message across, it will fall on deaf ears.

Out of respect for the performers: plan on staying in your seat at the end, and don't expect an encore.  Then when you can't help but stand, and can't help but beg for more - they'll know you mean it.