Byron's Babbles

Seeking Opportunities To Observe & Update Our 🌎Worldview🌍

We create our own beliefs, they don’t happen to us. We choose what and how we believe. As we grow up, we see the world and ourselves in a particular way. This “way” is based on environmental influences, our parents/families, and our peers. Whether we like it or not, we are responsible for developing our own belief system.

“To argue with someone else’s experience is futile. To add their experience to your own is possibly useful.”

One of my favorite quotes by an unknown author is, “To argue with someone else’s experience is futile. To add their experience to your own is possibly useful.” To me this is what empathy is about – understanding how another person’s experiences have shaped them. If we take time to truly study the experiences of others, those experiences can help give us information free of confirmation bias.

One Machiavelli principle I prescribe to is that we should always “declare” what we believe. This does not, however, mean that those beliefs can’t evolve and change. Thus, why declaring is important. In fact, sometimes we must grapple with contradictory evidence. As our society becomes more and more global, we have more and more of our own experiences and the experiences of others to process. This contemplation of dealing with opposing views and possibly believing parts of both has always intrigued me. F. Scott Fitzgerald taught us, “The rest of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” I see this as an ability of great empathy, openness, humility, and leadership.

“It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so.” ~ Mark Twain

This trait of openness was reinforced in an awesome book I’m reading right now, Creative Confidence: Unleashing The Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom Kelley and David Kelley. In the book we are taught that building on the ideas of others requires humility. We must first acknowledge to ourselves the we don’t have all the answers. The upside to this is that it takes the pressure off of us to know we don’t have to generate all the ideas on our own.

Mark Twain taught us that, “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so.” We need to be diligent to not be fooled by what we “know for sure” about ourselves, our customers, our students, those we serve, our communities, or the world. We must seek out opportunities to observe and update our worldview.

Codifier Of Compassion

I am reading the final pages of what is right now the fourth in the great series, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, by Robert Caro. Caro is working the fifth and final and I sure hope he finishes it. These books that are really about power – how power is obtained, how power is used, and how power is abused. The fourth book, The Passage of Power, begins right before President Kennedy’s assassination and takes us through the first few months of Johnson’s Presidency. This includes passing a civil rights bill, getting budget approval, and a tax cut bill passed.

Robert Caro is an incredibly talented writer and I was moved by a statement in the book about Johnson. Here it is:

“He was to become the lawmaker for the poor and the downtrodden and the oppressed. He was to be the bearer of at least a measure of social justice to those whom social justice had so long been denied. The restorer of at least a measure of dignity to those who so desperately needed to be given some dignity. The redeemer of the promises made by them to America. “It is time to write it in the books of law.” By the time Lyndon Johnson left office he had done a lot of writing in those books, had become, above all presidents save Lincoln, the codifier of compassion, the president who wrote mercy and justice in the statute books by which America was governed.” ~ Robert A. Caro in The Passage of Power

He was comparing Johnson to Lincoln as a “codifier of compassion.” To codify means to make something a part of an organized system. In other words it becomes more than talk.

Because of the childhood poverty, his relationship with his father, and his teaching position, was able to have all three types of empathy I teach about in leadership professional growth gatherings. He was first able to show Cognitive Empathy; the ability to understand another person’s perspective. Because Johnson grew up in poverty, he was able to feel what another person feels, or what is called Emotional Empathy.

Thirdly, because of his experience as a teacher at Welhausen School in Cotulla, Texas, a small town on the border of Texas and Mexico, he practiced Empathic Concern: the ability to sense what another person needs from you. Johnson’s classes were made up of the children of Mexican-American farmers. Johnson didn’t speak Spanish and many of his students didn’t speak English. Despite this limitation, Johnson quickly and enthusiastically began teaching and encouraging the children to speak English by holding speech and debate tournaments.

Johnson was very strict with his students and left a lasting impression on them. In addition, Johnson organized a literary society, an athletic club, and organized field trips to neighboring towns so his students could compete in sporting events, speech, and spelling contests. With his first paycheck, Johnson bought playground equipment. In a letter home to his mother, Johnson wrote about his work with the students and asked her for help in sending toothpaste for the children and borrowing materials for his debate team.

Clearly Johnson’s upbringing gave him tremendous ability for empathy, but notice he added action to this. Thus, becoming compassion. Empathy is just a profound feeling, but add to that merciful and helpful action and you get compassion and supportive companionship. Compassion is empathy put into action, or as is the point of this post, codified.

Johnson’s past experiences had set him up perfectly to be a “codifier of compassion.” He knew what had to be done and did it. So many leaders talk empathy very well, but that is all it is – talk. We must walk the talk and codify that empathy with the actions of compassion.

“Getting It Right” Before “Being Right”

Screen Shot 2020-07-28 at 8.33.08 PM“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 KJV). A good daily growth exercise to read a chapter of Proverbs every day each month. There is a lot of wisdom to be gained from King Solomon. The difference between “getting it right” and “being right” with this statement, is not to suggest that we are more often than not wrong in our thinking. Despite the religious origin, people use this nowadays without religious overtones. People can say this simply as a warning not to be too arrogant.

To me “getting it right” before “being right” means having humility and an ability to consider all sides of an issue or question. Being humble does not mean that you diminish your value or take a subordinate position in terms of presenting your ideas or perceptions. It does, however, as a leader, mean than we should listen to others’ ideas before always presenting our own. And acknowledging when those ideas are better than our own. True humility is a sign of wisdom, knowledge, confidence, and strength.

“When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

“Getting it right” is a core value I practice to remind myself that making a contribution as part of a bigger team means that you have the humility to accept that others also have something worthwhile to contribute. I truly believe there is no such thing as an “expert.” But, I do talk about the “collective expertise” in the room all the time. We should all strive to be an important part of a “collective vision.” When we give up the need to always be right, we communicate and listen on a deeper level, with more understanding and acceptance, and with less judgment and resistance.

Leading Like Yoda

Last night we created personal Mount Rushmores in our 3D Leadership gathering. I was surprised to have a new leader added to the list – Yoda. Of all the years I’ve been doing this, this is the first time a participant has put Yoda on their personal Mount Rushmore. Moreover, last night there were two people out of the group of 48 that picked Yoda to be on their personal Mount Rushmore.

So of course I had to dig into Yoda as a leader. In the Star Wars universe, Yoda might be the single most important hero. Yoda is wise and insightful and brings many leadership lessons to the forefront to help us all become better at serving those we lead. Of course, several Yoda quotes were thrown out in the course of the gathering, like:

  • “Do or do not. There is no try.”
  • “[Luke]: I can’t believe it. [Yoda]: That is why you fail.”
  • “You must unlearn what you’ve learned.”
  • “Much to learn you still have.”
  • “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

One of the things I took away from some really great discussions was that we need to remember that thinking about the future is really important for finding direction, but don’t do it at the expense of what we are currently doing. We need to focus on the task at hand. Spend time in the moment. Be present. It will make us more efficient, and we’ll notice more.

Yoda often taught his pupils through action. We decided last night that leaders are built by learning from their imperfections. Yoda gives us an example of what one participant said she would like to be: “Fair, compassionate, and motivational.” Challenges will push and motivate us. In this time of uncertainty we must focus on continuing to learn so we can help the world triumph. As the group taught me last night, the only thing to do is the next right thing.

March Flowers 🌼

Sometimes we need to look no further than our children for inspiration in times of crisis. This was true this past weekend for me. As I read all of the different statements being put out this week by businesses and organizations, I couldn’t help but think that the simple things we are taught as children should guide every decision: the Golden Rule and what is best for others. Maybe just some good ole empathy and compassion.

We went down to help move my son home from Murray State University this past weekend. It was tough on him to be leaving a place he has grown to love and all his friends. He was visibly upset. There was definitely mental impact at play in him having to move home because of the coronavirus. Even during this trying time, he took time to pick a clump of March flowers (daffodils) for his mother (pictured here). We’d never heard them called March Flowers. Heath told us it was a Kentucky thing. He explained, “Spring is here, new life is blooming in spite of the coronavirus.” That’s my boy, finding some beauty and positivity during a time of crisis. That was a moment I will savor forever.

As I watch groups and businesses contemplate how to get the most out of their employees at this time of global crises I can’t help but think these so called leaders have missed the point. Right now we should be thinking about how best to care for those we serve, period. And, as someone who doesn’t sit around and pontificate about a virus I know nothing about, the best thing to do is have everyone staying at home. I’m surprised how many people have become experts overnight.

In the case of k-12 education we do need to be concerned for the learning of our children. We also need to provide parents with resources to help their students along with our teachers. We need to be cognizant of the mental impact that the crisis we are living through can have. Schools need to make sure resources for parents are available so they can reinforce social-emotional skills at home and know who to contact if they are concerned about an issue impacting learning online or just in day to day life.

Staying positive is the core ingredient in the recipe of successfully coping in a time of crisis. Now is the time to be proactive in creating small moments of happiness in our days. Positive emotions help us to undo the negative effects of stress.

A Clouded Social Critique

Posted in Compassion, Freedom, Global Leadership, Honor, Leadership, Storytelling, The Warehouse by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 25, 2020

The WarehouseThe Warehouse by Rob Hart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is an absolute genius work of art. The story is told from the three main characters points of view. I believe the most innovative part of Hart’s writing in this novel is that one cannot distinguish between who is protagonist or antagonist. And, I was left still pondering this after I had read the last words. Additionally, all characters have internal and external conflicts. Two of the main characters, Paxton and Zinnia, are dynamic in their character development and again we are left wondering where this development will leave them. Gibson is the only, round, or fully developed main character. One finds him in the book for what he is, a person who talks great core values, but is caught up in ambition over purpose. I blogged about this in “It has been an Honor To Live This Life”: https://byronernest.blog/2020/01/23/i… The book gives us different versions of the same truth. This really reads as a social critique on America. The business, Cloud, that the novel is written around really almost becomes a character in and of itself. This book treads the blurred line very closely to what is real, not so far off in the future real, and still out there a ways – or at least so I hope. There are parts of this book that seem so real that they should worry us. I blogged about this in “Remember, Freedom Is Yours Until You Give It Up”: https://byronernest.blog/2020/01/25/r… This is a must read book because of the great literary art that it is, but also because of its thought provoking nature.

View all my reviews

“It Has Been An Honor To Live This Life”

Posted in Benevolent Leadership, Community, Compassion, Compassionate Leadership, Honor, Leadership, Servant Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 23, 2020

I just finished reading an awesome book: The Warehouse by Rob Hart. I was so blown away by this book that all I have done so far is give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. I will write a review, but really need to think about what I will say to give Hart the justice he deserves. When this book was recommended to me I was reluctant because it is a fiction novel and, as you know, I read non fiction. This book, however, had many great lessons and besides a few twists it could be non fiction. I’m not going to say much more; you can read the book description for yourself. I don’t want to reveal anything that would take away from you enjoying the book as much as I did. All I can say is, you need to read the book. I guarantee you, you will say, “Is this really happening in the world right now?”

There were things said by characters in the book that jumped out at me. I will be blogging about them. One phrase came from Gibson, the founder and CEO of Cloud, the focus of the entire plot. He said, “It has been an honor to live this life.” Because of his business practices this seemed like an odd comment because I found him to be very much like Machiavelli. While Gibson presents everything he does as putting others first and doing what’s best for the world, he also has rules by fear. He is promoting a very socialist/communist way of life by controlling the collective, but making millions and living a luxurious life for himself, while his employees just get by. He is Machiavellian in that he controls with low wages and the fear of employees losing their jobs.

Also, Gibson uses Machiavelli’s rule of “scorched earth”; completely eliminating any competition or potential competitor. He basically puts every other business out of business. No competition – complete control. So, I’m thinking “How can there be any honor in living that life?”

To be clear, Gibson was providing jobs and places to live, but there is clearly a conflict of whether he is doing this “for others” or “to others to make money.” Therefore the question becomes, “What does it mean to live with honor?”

To me, living with honor means living for a cause greater than yourself. It means really having a purpose; not just becoming CEO and making a bunch of money. In other words, am I making a difference? Really that is only a question we can answer for ourself. For me it comes down to the question of, “Are you contributing to the success and happiness of others?” In the case of Gibson I would say “no.” All he did was contribute to his own ego and bank account.

“If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” ~ Former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson

For it to be an honor to live a life I believe there also needs to be honesty and transparency. If that happens the right things will probably be done. We need to be concerned where life is taking us, but we also need to be as concerned, or even more concerned, about how we are getting there. If we truly want to live with honor.

As you can see, this book had a profound impact on me and caused a great deal of reflection. We never know who is watching us or considering as a role model. What do you want them to see. Rather than saying, “It was an honor to live this life.” I would rather someone say of me, “He lived his life with honor.”

Living Is Having A Past Full Of Mistakes

The other day as I was having dinner with a good friend I was talking about some mistakes I had made. He said, “Byron, part of living is having a past full of mistakes.” Wow, how true this is! And, how impactful it was to hear from this. As a person who never worries about failure and tries to learn from every mistake, it was huge to talk this out.

The thing to remember and tell ourselves, however, is that the mistake was not on purpose. We didn’t misunderstand circumstances or miscalculate a situation on purpose. Would we forgive someone else? Sure! So we need to remember to forgive ourselves too, and fail forward. This all doesn’t qualify if the mistake or failure was while taking a risk. That is the nature of risk taking and is necessary.

Then, we just need to do everything we can to fix the mistake. That may mean talking to someone, coming up with a better solution, or letting someone else help out. I always say to others, “There’s nothing you can screw up bad enough that the sun won’t come out tomorrow. And, if it doesn’t, it won’t matter anyway.” Remember, we are human and not infallible.

Finally, we need to take the position that we will be smarter next time. We need to learn from mistakes. Just as others have had amnesia about our past mistakes, we need to have amnesia about others. This is truly having compassion.

Leading With Compassionate Solutions

One of the driving forces of exceptional leadership is compassion. I am working through a situation right now that prompted the much appreciated text pictured above from a staff member and thought partner I am working on the situation with. Usually I pride myself on being very creative and innovative, but to be credited for finding a compassionate solution made me feel good and made me reflect on whether I was consistently a compassionate leader.

To be great, leaders must have the necessary empathy to inspire understanding and knowledge in team members. I teach about this in the leadership trainings I do. Empathy begins with taking an understanding from the experience and perception of another. Empathy, however, is just about understanding. Empathy is about opening doors and removing confusion. Compassion is the action step; compassion is about actually doing something.

The compassionate leader can then be creative in solving situations, problems, and opportunities. Looking for compassionate solutions allows the leader to look past “the easy way out” referenced in the text pictured above. This allows the team to look at challenges as opportunities to be dealt with as obstacles, not barriers. Barriers stop completely and obstacles can be removed, gone around, over, or under. I blogged about this in Obstacles Vs. Barriers. Actually, I said to the author of the above text, “Let’s make sure we look at any challenges as obstacles and not barriers. We are not allowing any barriers.” The compassionate leader seeks to understand people, families, and communities; knowing that understanding is the gateway to having the greatest influence as a leader.