Archive | January 2006

The State of Your Union

Tonight was the continuation of an American tradition in which the elected executive stands before the whole of the remaining two branches of government and delivers their thoughts and visions on and for the Nation. It is a good opportunity to listen to what the president has to say about America: what do do they care about? What do they want to do? What have they done?

G. W. Bush had a few main points tonight, which included:

1. Isolationism = Defeatism
2. Democracy everywhere is the future
3. Building on existing domestic momentum

That is what he said. Here is what it actually means. We will approach this line-by-line, with parallel translation of rhetoric.

G. W. Started out paying respect to Coretta Scott King, who passed on today. That was a good move, but it was also probably the highlight of the night.

“Act in a spirit of goodwill and respect.”
G. W. Used this in reference to the heated, partisan tone of recent Washington debates (Patriot Act Extension, Alito Confirmation Hearings, Domestic Spying Inquiries). What this really means is “Democrats need to stop making noise. Get down or lay down.” It means that conservatives don’t want any disagreement, regardless of its merit (more on this below).

“Isolationism leads to danger and defeat.”
This is how G. W. Began his foreign policy section. This is a challenge to those of us who feel that domestic matters outweigh foreign affairs. Isolationist is conservative code for “having one’s priorities in logical order.” Is it “danger and defeat” if you care more about someone else’s house than your own family’s well-being? Of course not: it’s stupid.

“We seek the end of tyranny in the world…democracies replace resentment with hope…”
This was how G. W. Justified his *Offensive Democracy* foreign policy approach. Research has shown that “fighting them there so they don’t fight us here” holds as much water as a spider web. What does tyranny mean? It can be summed up in two words: unchecked leadership. America was designed to protect against such a thing, but with all three branches compromised, that protection has disappeared. As for democracy replacing resentment, is there resentment in American democracy? That’s another spider web full of Kool-Aid.

Mentioned Zimbabwe among non-democracies
The African continent made an appearance this year. The last time the Earth’s source was mentioned by G. W. was when he lied about Iraq getting weapons of mass destruction from Niger. I don’t think this mention will stir as much reaction.

“Terrorists chose the weapon of fear”
This is the first nominee for Line of the Night. BushCo has pedaled fear and propaganda in order to justify their foolish, selfish policies, including [but not limited to] the Patriot Act and the Domestic Spying program and the so-called “War on Terror.”

“The US will not retreat from the world, and we will never surrender to evil”
More code for “isolationism” being bad. See above.

“Clear plan for victory” in Iraq
This is the second nominee for Line of the Night. All I can say about this is this: when the “clear plan” is made “clear” by not “clearly” defining success, then is it really that “clear?”

“Iraq: 3 years to sovereignty…we are winning”
Sovereignty? G. W. Still hasn’t figured out what sovereignty means. What government is sovereign when it is supported, financed, and protected by another government. And “we are winning?” See above for an explanation on why you can’t win when you don’t know what winning means or looks like.

“The road of victory is the road that will take our troops home”
This is a feeble attempt at defining winning. Any idiot knows that when a “war” is “over,” the troops will come home. This is simply an empty, rhetorical, admission of the obvious.

Responsible Criticism vs. Defeatism
G. W. has touched on this before. Responsible criticism might as well mean total, blind agreement. Anything less is defeatism in the eyes of conservatives.

“Keep our word…stand behind the American military”
The “keep our word” part is the same as the “stay the course” B.S. that we’ve been hearing since the election of 2004. It means “I [and my backers] am too damn hard-headed to see my flawed actions and decisions of the past, and I refuse to change my tactics in spite of my mistakes.” It is an unfortunate reality that we meddled in and broke Iraq. Oh well in my opinion. I would much rather see resources expended in the Gulf Coast than the Persian Gulf.

“Raising up a democracy requires the rule of law…”
The timing of this statement is matched only by its irony. We are amid scandal and corruption in Washington, yet the President is calling for “the rule of law” in other nations. Apparently Americans can be above the law. Well, Americans WITH MONEY (read: Republicans) can be above the law.

America wants to be “the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran”
This is laughable considering that we will likely be invading Iran in the near future. Whether they were free or democratic, they would get invaded.

Patriot Act: “same tools used to fight drugs and crime”
This is how G. W. introduced his case for renewal of the controversial Patriot Act. There is plenty on this blog that makes our opposition to this clear. Black people should fear and reject anything similar to the “tools used to fight drugs and crime” that have led to such grave injustices as racial profiling, disproportionate Black male incarceration, and systematic Black disenfranchisement.

Spying: “appropriate members of Congress kept informed”
More attempts to justify “Terrorism Surveillance.” What defines “appropriate?” Why wasn’t the “appropriate,” appointed FISA Court informed?

“Roosevelt, Kennedy rejected isolation and retreat”
Sprinkle of rhetoric here about why “isolationism” is bad. We’ve already covered why that’s just plain dumb.

“I urge the Congress to act responsibly and make the tax cuts permanent.”
This oxymoron is the third nominee for Line of the Night. This means the the legislature should “responsibly” withhold money from important domestic affairs to reward the wealthy. Permanent tax cuts would be as irresponsible as permanent tax increases. Since one cannot predict future occurrences, tax policy should be periodically, organically evaluated.

The Special-Interest problem can be tackled with the Line-Item Veto
Never seen a President that didn’t want a Line-Item Veto, so that’s nothing new. The question is, would he really, really do something about lobbyists if he had one? I doubt it.

“Keeping America competitive requires affordable Health Care…Strengthen Health Spending Accounts…Make coverage portable”
The first and third phrases sound decent enough to me, given that I want the ultimate in affordable, portable coverage: Universal Health Care. The second phrase is one that I have a problem with. This point, nestled between two decent ideas, is part of G. W.’s Ownership Society message. The problem is that 45 million Americans don’t have Health care and cannot afford it, another would not be able to afford or understand HSAs as proposed. The beauty of Universal Health Care is that is based on a simple notion: you need health care, you get it, period. HSAs are no more than funnels leading to the pockets of HMOs and Insurance companies. Do not be fooled.

“America is addicted to oil…Advanced Energy Initiative…Replace 75% of Middle Eastern oil dependence by 2025″
This is actually a good idea. Increase research in ethanol and zero-emission coal power is a good thing. However, I can’t imagine BushCo’s oil buddies letting this kind of thing actually result in lower oil consumption.

“American Competitiveness Initiative”
Again, another good idea in theory. Doubling our commitment to natural sciences, permanent research tax credits, encouraging more math & science in secondary education, all good stuff. I just hope they don’t use No Child Left Behind as the model for implementation.

Work with Black churches to fight AIDS
Black folks came up again at the end. This marks the first time I had ever heard a White Republican cite statistics on AIDS in Black America. While I am happy about that (it is a step in the right direction), I am worried that the Black church path is a flawed one. BushCo has coaxed the Black church into supporting him on issues such as abortion and gay marriage, and he may be at it again. I would not trust these guys, as a fear that they are more concerned with gaining votes that saving Black lives.

There you have it.

Please share your thoughts and reactions to the speech and my reactions.


GDGII
http://www.TheSuperSpade.com

Sent using Windows Mobile 5.0

The Weekly Dream: Humility: Willing to be wrong, unafraid to Fail

“A Wise man knows he knows nothing at all”
-Socrates

“A cup that is full is useless”
-Daniel DeVougas

While I was preparing for this article, I had a strange dream. I entered my kitchen after a long day of work. I was exhausted and all I wanted was a cup of water. I opened my cabinet and the first cup I pulled out has an unidentified jello-like substance in it. I think, “That is odd”, and proceed to pull another cup from the cabinet. Yet, the same substance is in the cup. Upon further inspection, each and every cup in my house is full of this mysterious liquid. I believe someone has played a sick joke on me and it is not funny. Out of sheer desperation, I cup my hands under the faucet and drink from there. But that still does not answer two fundamental questions: “What is it and how did it get in every single one of my cups?”

A lot of people are like those cups in my dream: they are unusable because they are full of everything but the right thing. It takes tremendous humility to constantly give and empty yourself in order to receive more. I know I struggle with it daily.

This concept of humility is a hard concept to grasp, and it really is not a popular subject. I did not expect it to be in this society full of self-promotion and inflated self-importance. My preliminary research yielded unfavorable results in that it was associated with such “weak” words such as modesty and submission. In fact, the major context that spoke of humility favorably was religion. Thus, I had to “fill in the gaps.”

A Paradigm Shift?

If most of the world’s religions stress humility as a pathway to the Higher Power, why is it so widely disdained? Perhaps we have a misunderstanding of what true humility is. People think that being humble is self-abasement, bowing, and scraping and the like. This is not true humility, it is a form affectation. So, allow me to submit my own definition of humility: A proper and right relationship in regards to yourself and others. Now let us differentiate this from arrogance and low self-esteem.

Arrogance is when you are only able to see your positive qualities and ignoring your faults at the expense of not recognizing the gifts and uniqueness of others. When you are in an arrogant mindset, you cannot receive anything because you are too busy transmitting. Either you are listening or you are talking. You can’t do both. So ask yourself, “Am I transmitting when I should be receiving and being open?”

Low self-esteem is only recognizing the gifts and uniqueness of others at the expense of your own. But humility allows you to celebrate the uniqueness and talents of yourself, while acknowledging those things that make other people special. In knowing this, you can be confident, because you know your strengths, but constantly work to learn from your weaknesses. Humility makes you want to serve.

It hurts doesn’t it? A hard pill to swallow.

Daily, I am humble by life, experience and interactions with others. I feel I have so much to learn and a long way to go (grad school has been especially humbling). But I am thankful to have the opportunity to learn and grow. And I feel blessed that I finally have begun to recognize this fact. However, few of us truly can grow and move on because our concept of self is eggshell fragile. It is truly a sign of maturity to be able to objectively look at yourself and also allow others to do so and tell you where you can be better. I know for myself, learning how to take constructive criticism is still a daily battle for two reasons: 1.) I often only want to hear the good about myself (I do relapse from time to time) and 2.) It is hard to trust the motives of others.

As for the first thing, that, as previously stated, is a maturity issue. But the second is a little deeper. People can be petty and mean, and seek to disrupt your inner equilibrium. Therefore, It is always important to only take into account those things which our spoken in the right spirit. I call this, “checking your sources” because not everyone’s opinion is worth listening to, not everybody has “good sense.” If we constantly go about trying to change ourselves for everybody and anybody, we become people pleasers. And the question becomes, “Are we pleasing the right people?” It is a privilege to allow others to speak into your life and effect change, and it should not be taken lightly.

Personally, I informally formed a small committee of individuals whom I allowed tell me about myself, and I would listen to them. They do not know they are on this committee, but it exists for me nonetheless. Everyone else, I might listen to, but their opinion did not weigh as much as those on this committee of trusted loved ones. If someone told me something I did not like or agree with, I tabled it to the committee for their review. If they said the same thing, then I knew I needed to take a look at myself.

Need some help?

In pursuing this right relationship with yourself and others, it is important to come to some realizations. One, this is a process and it will take time. You are not going to get everything in the first clip, everything is not going to workout smoothly. Therefore, do not get frustrated with yourself or give up. Stick to the process and press on. This could apply to any number of things, but we will keep it in this context.

Next, be accountable. It is important to not be afraid to be wrong or to fail because that is how you learn. In our society, mistakes are discouraged rather than encouraged. But how did we learn to walk? By falling and getting up and refining our technique. How did we get potty trained? These elementary examples illustrate exactly what John Maxwell says, that “failure is the price of success.” When I first met my boy Garlin, one of the first things I had to adjust to in our friendship is that he would tell me when I was being illogical or when I was wrong. Right then and there, no delay. But I trusted our friendship, and it has made me a better person. In fact, now that is a trait that I seek and respect from all of my close associates.

Also, when going through correction, look for concrete ways to refine your process. Keep the definition of insanity in mind. No one fails just to fail, no one goes through humility for the sake of staying there. You fail so you can learn to win. You humble yourself so you know how to handle success. I feel that this is universal law.

In closing, start failing and adjusting, and your success is right around the corner.

Be that empty cup and fill yourself with the right things. Once you are filled, pass it on to others.

A closed mouth does not get fed, but it can become wise.

“Attempting to sustain truth without humility is doomed instead to become an “arrogant caricature” of the truth.”
-Ghandi

“A wise person acts without claiming the results as his; he achieves his merit and does not rest (arrogantly) in it: — he does not wish to display his superiority.”
–Tao Te Ching

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas

Question of the Week: How do you stay grounded?

The 65% Solution to Funding Public Education

I read a great article today in the Christian Science Monitor discussing the implications of the 65 % percent solution by which school districts would be required to spend at least 65 cents on every dollar goes directly into the classroom - on books and teacher pay – by the end of 2008.

A great public school education doesn’t require a school district to spend exorbitant amounts of money on books and teacher pay, but let’s face it, money talks. And Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com came up with this idea and he found out how much of a difference pennies appear to make in different school outcomes. After Byrne “crunched data from the NCES, he found that the five states with the highest student standardized test scores (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Minnesota, and Connecticut) on average spent 64.1 percent in the classroom. The five worst- scoring states (Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia) on average spent 59.5 percent in the classroom. Georgia ranked 13th, spending about 63 cents on every dollar.”

Of course, school funding is complex, not every city has the same tax base, too much bureaucracy, ya di ya di yah. Joydeep Roy, of the Economic Policy Institute said, “I have not seen any solid evidence as to, if all other things are equal, that a school district spending 70 percent in the classroom as opposed to a school district spending 60 percent has higher performance”. Maybe Roy hasn’t seen any solid evidence because “the average US school district now spends 81 percent of its budget on personnel, including teachers, support staff, and administrators,” so that by the time you get to the students, there is no more money left to spare.

And you know the giant education bureaucracy that cries for more funding? This plan will give them the tools that they need to actually do their job. And once you do that, we can really start to talk about accountability and seeing results. How can you expect accountability when you have teachers that don’t have books? Please someone, tell me. That’s like someone telling you to do your job without a computer and then you get chastised for slow productivity. And granted, there are bad teachers in America but I am inclined to believe that the majority of them are highly qualified and genuinely want to help their students achieve. But teachers are people too and they deserve higher pay that is commensurate with the vital service they provide by educating your snot-nosed kids.

And what burns me is that some “education researchers are not sure whether the plan will work”. I mean for real, is anybody really sure? If there was a student achievement genie, don’t you think we would have rubbed that oil lamp by now? It’s almost like some educational researchers enjoy being voyeurs of the educational system more than getting their wing-tipped shoes dirty and working with people who have fresh ideas.
In any event, 17 states have passed legislation that meet the sixty-five percent threshold including Texas, Georgia, and Kansas. Byrnes goal is to have all fifty states adopt similar legislation and my hope is that the states that have passes this legislation will see improvement in the achievement of their students. And hopefully this will in turn inspire or shame the other 33 states into getting on board.

Because for as much as politicians, pundits, corporations, and the public-at-large, you could get skate by in America with an average education and still manage to live comfortably. And now that our economy is being squeezed by globalization, pensions are drying up left and right, increasingly high-skilled labor is being out-sourced, and just going to college is not enough. Therefore, parents are realizing more than ever that tired adages about education just won’t cut it anymore. Because if Mommy and Daddy are living longer but don’t have enough saved in retirement for themselves, guess who won’t be able to pay for their children’s college education? And before you talk about scholarships, unless you have a full ride, college is still financially stressful if you have scholarships.

But I digress. I am a firm supporter of the 65% solution and will be monitoring its progress as more data is collected. Funding K-12 education is not easy but at least we should start with every student having enough resources to make it in this world. Isn’t it funny how most of the people that say, “we have to have janitors and burger flippers,” are not the janitors and burger flippers. So if you are one of those people who don’t understand why all students deserve an equal opportunity to succeed, talk to this lady who said, “The 65 percent solution is the equivalent of a chicken in every pot,” says a disapproving Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform (CER).

God forbid every student could get a piece of chicken. People die in poor countries because of starvation and people die in this country because they eat too much. In short, education is like food and should not be delivered disproportionately based on where you live.

Shout out to Patrick Byrnes for adding fresh ideas to help improve school funding in America.

Stay up fam,

Brandon

Partisan equals Brain Dead

The New York Times Psychology section is arguably its most interesting section. They had a great story today about an experiment that measured the mentality of extremely partisan people. I always thought that people who did things based solely on political party alliances were less than intelligent, but now I have some data to back me up.

From the article:


Using M.R.I. scanners, neuroscientists have now tracked what happens in the politically partisan brain when it tries to digest damning facts about favored candidates or criticisms of them. The process is almost entirely emotional and unconscious, the researchers report, and there are flares of activity in the brain’s pleasure centers when unwelcome information is being rejected.

This, in and of itself, is neither a big deal nor surprising. Whenever we hear or read something we enjoy/agree with, we experience pleasure. Whenever we interact with the opposite, we are unhappy about it. This is all well and good, but these thoughtless reactions have potentially catastrophic implications when in the heads of the violent or the influential. It is important that we elect to public office individuals that will think before they act. It bothers me when I see votes in Congress that fall strictly on party lines (the most recent example being the Senate Judiciary Committee’s recommendation in favor of Samuel Alito. A more infamous example of voting without thinking was the vote to pass the USA Patriot Act in 2001. The problem with this thinking (or lack thereof) is clear: acting blindly will never lead to positive outcomes. We need to have representatives in government that are willing to think critically about all of the issues in front of them, if for no other reason than the fact that they represent the hearts and minds of thousands of thinking people who make up their constituencies. It is our responsibility as voters and civic participants to eliminate such individuals from our government. To find who would be eliminated based on this idea, start by going to Project Vote Smart to review the voting records of the politicians that represent you.

If I was going to vote for someone who would only vote the way that party leaders (or any special interest for that matter) dictate, then there would be no use for representative democracy at all. All decision making in this situation would map to the opinions those who spoke for whatever special interest was hot at the time. That is brain dead. Then again, so is a partisan voter. Don’t be that person.

Black History: Up close and personal

Last night, I was watching Henry Louis Gates on the Charlie Rose Show and they were discussing Gates project entitled African American lives. In this project, Gates traces the family trees of himself and other celebrities (including Dr. Ben Carson, Oprah, and Bishop T.D. Jakes) using all available historical documents along with detailed DNA analysis.

At the start of the show, Charlie Rose showed a clip of Gates asking Whoopi Goldberg why finding out her family background was so important. Whoopi replied, “Because we are the only people who have had their history stolen.” I was floored. And not because I didn’t agree with Whoopi but for all the Black history I have read in trying to connect and understand my people, I still feel that emptiness like someone stole something from me.

Therefore, I felt like I was learning about my own family’s history when I saw Roots and as Gates presented his findings to each participant. It was so interesting to see how giddy and anxious each person was to learn about their own history. And Gates made an interesting point by saying that everyone who participated was more interested in their genealogy rather than the genetics. That is to say the participants were not so interested in what percentage of their blood was White, Indian, etc., but rather they were more interested in the stories surrounding their family histories. Whether the stories were good or bad, you could almost sense the peace that befell each participant as if their life journey was now complete.

Another interesting point that Gates touched on was the implications of Blacks not knowing their family history. I think one obvious implication is the disconnect that exists between Africans and African-Americans. The other is the sense of destiny. I am always enamored when I hear people say, “I come from a long line of….”, or “My great great Grandpa used to…”. And after reading Barack Obama’s autobiography, I thought the best part of the book was when he went to Kenya to connect with his relatives on his father’s side. Like Obama, I think everyone, Blacks in particular, has a burning question that sits deep in their soul. Who am I? And life is sprinkled with clues to help answer that question. This is why I am inclined to think that if most Blacks knew for a fact which African country they were from, you would see more of an interest in Black people learning their history and being proud of their background.

I could be wrong but when you look at Black Caribbeans, the majority of the ones I know represent their country with a zeal that is electric. Now listen or watch any music video and you will see Black Americans representing their city or their block with the same amount of excitement as Black Caribbeans show for their country. Now just imagine if you heard rappers (who knew their ancestry) talk with pride about Mali, Angola, or Ethiopa? I think that would be very empowering because I am tempted to believe that it would be difficult to talk abut an African country while at the same time talking about drugs or killing. And again, I may be wrong.

But in any event, I suggest trying to trace your genealogy by at least asking questions of your older relatives. Because most of us probably can’t afford to get DNA analysis done of our families but at least through Henry Louis Gates, we can get a glimpse of what it may mean to find out our ancestry.

And just in case you were wondering, Gates asked the geneticist if he had any Indian in his bloodline, the geneticist said, “No, not one drop.”

African American Lives is showing on February 1st and 6th at 8pm, check your local listings.

Stay up fam,

Brandon
.

Balancing life and work

As the baby boomers retire, some companies are starting to realize that their employees happiness is more important than their salary.
I read a great article today on CNN that asked what Generation X are seeking out of their employment. At 23, I am considered Generation Y, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the views of Generation X and Y were not too far off. For instance, the researchers (Charlotte and Laura Shelton) found that “77% of Gen Xers say they’d quit in a minute if offered increased intellectual stimulation.” I can certainly attest to this desire as I am sure you know of people who feel the same. So what this means for employers is that they have to pay closer attention to their job requirements and finding ways to exploit the intellectual skills of their work force. This is not to say that baby boomers are not intellectual but information technology to the point that younger people can not successfully navigate social scenes without having at least a surface knowledge of current events.

And because many jobs now require people skills and the ability to work effectively in a team atmosphere, the researchers found that “the top three things people want in a job is positive relationships with colleagues, interesting work, and continuous opportunities for learning.” So where in the past where baby boomers maybe did not like their boss, the up and coming generation is more attune to the mood of a company and if it does not align with their temperament, they are much more likely to seek employment elsewhere.

Moreover, employers must rid themselves of the Adam Smith philosophy that you keep the same person doing the same thing until they retire or leave the company. This means that employers should provide on- going training for multiple skill sets. And if you are in a situation where you are doing the same thing every day, you should go out of your way to find ways to get more advanced training. Not only will this help you status at your current job, it will help spice up your resume’ so that you are more marketable if and when you leave for a better situation.

But one thing that Generation X is not addicted to is status. Power are prestige ranked last out of fifteen items that the respondents ranked in order of importance. At my job, I was surprised at how much a deal people made out of having an office instead of a cubicle. For decades, having an office (especially a corner office) is the most outward display of hierarchy and power. But I made a note to myself that when I open my own firm, entry level employees will start in the office and the cubicle will be reserved for management. This will be my attempt to redefine the way people think about moving up the corporate ladder so to speak. The article went on to talk about how the idea of the corporate ladder itself is changing at some companies in favor of a more egalitarian corporate structure. For example “TD industries has a policy that its highest paid employee can earn no more than 10 ten times the salary of its lowest-paid employee. ” This way, as the company grows, it is not only upper management that sees increased pay. And more importantly, every employee has an increased incentive to work together because everyone knows that what is good for the company is good for everybody.

The researchers also found that younger people want their employer to support them having a life outside of work. One thing I struggled with my job search is going corporate or non-profit. I ended up going corporate and I am trying very hard to get back to doing community service. Which is why I wished I was an software engineer at Autodesk “because it gives its employees paid time every month to do volunteer work.” Policies like this help bring balance to people’s lives and invariably make them more productive. And Autodesk is really innovative because there is no set work hours. “There’s no abseenteism policy, and no one keeps track of sick days. The philosophy is, these are all capable people, so let’s assume they can behave like adults.” And not surprisingly, “employees respond to that with an unusually hihg level of commitment.” I bet they do!!! I often joke with my working friends that I never thought how valuable I would view my sick/vacation time. And I hate feeling like my job is slowly rationing out my time. I know for a fact that I would be more productive if there were no set work hours. Just think about how you made it through college. When you had to work, it didn’t matter what time it was, you got the job done.

And for any employers who are afraid of giving their employees too many benefits for the sake of profits, ALL of the companies listed in the article are highly profitable and turnover is minimal at best. The workforce is rapidly changing and employers need to understand that investing in balanced lifestyles for their employees is just as, if not more important than boosting salaries. Therefore, if you are working and know that you would benefit from the points made in this post, float some of these ideas by your colleagues. I know I will. And even if your firm laughs in your face, just know that there are some companies that are genuinely concerned about the well-being happiness of their employees.

Stay up fam, Brandon .

The Weekly Dream: Consistent Excellence and Balance

“Excellence is a habit”

-Colin Powell

I love sports. However, basketball is my favorite because it is my metaphor for life: the fast pace, the need to make instantaneous change and adjustments, the hours of dedication and practice, and having to deal with victory and defeat simultaneously. But growing up, I was more curious as to what separated the good players from the average, the good from the great, and the great from the excellent. What separated the average from the good could be explained by sheer talent. The great distinguished themselves by adding work to the talent. Yet, what set the excellent apart?

If you were like me, you marveled at players like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Dr. J. People who perform at the pinnacle of their field usually inspire awe because they seem to be perfectly integrated with their pursuits. They are so integrated that no one seemed to notice the sweat and effort they poured in to reach that journey. Highlight films are suited to show flashes of greatness, which gives the impression of just pure natural ability, but what is lost are all the missed shots, missed dunks, and bad decisions. What is lost is the process that birthed the result.

*Par Excellence*

Excellence is denoted as superiority. This implies that you are the best internally and externally. That is not completely true. Success is really being the best. Excellence is being the best you can be. Excellence is really performing at an optimal level in every aspect of your life. It is when you match your practice with your potential. It is a personal standard. Success is more a condition while excellence is a state of being. Success is often talent driven while excellence is character driven. Excellence is process oriented, while success outcome oriented. Excellence is a lifestyle.

Because the two are often confused, people’s energies and motivations suffer. Do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with competition, it is a fact of life. But as any one will tell you, there are times where your best is not good enough. And just because you are successful does not mean you are excellent.

For example, there are people who are successful in their careers, but they are miserable in their personal life; or the student that gets the ‘A’, but did not really learn anything. One area is thriving at the expense of others. There is a lack of wholeness or integration. This is not true success. True success is an outgrowth of your own internal excellence. Excellence is the spirit of success. Therefore, we first need to define our pursuits. Are our efforts aimed at success or excellence?

Once that is done, we need to discover the process/journey/system to bring about our intent. The human body is nothing but the interactions of various systems performing processes designed to bring about a desired result. Nature has a process it follows. Everything works within the confines of a system, and that system brings about balance.

*Hopping on One Foot*

As you begin to discover and work your process, understand that excellence is inextricably linked to balance.

In the body, your ears and eyes must work together in order for you to walk. If you close your eyes and spin in a circle a few times, you will be off balance for a little while when you open your eyes again. The same occurs when your vision and understanding are not in alignment. Maintaining proper vision and understanding of your role is crucial in living a balance life.

One way to begin living a balance life is to do nourish your various components. Because I believe that the human body is comprised of mind, body and spirit, I try to not let a day go by in which I do not do something to enrich them. It takes tremendous discipline manage your day and to set aside the time to do this. However, this is what is necessary to maintain your mental, physical, and spiritual health.

This will also allow you to be more prepared and preparation breeds sensitivity, awareness and instinct. Great leaders eclipse the competition because they have a tremendous mental and spiritual edge that dwarfs their circumstances. They put in the time to exercise and expand these abilities so that they could remain cool in times of adversity.

*In the end*

If you look at any great person, you will see one common denominator that transcended success and worldly prestige, and that is love. It is the journey and its effect on you that makes life beautiful. Michael Jordan loved the game, so the journey was worth it. Michael Jordan’s love for the sport of basketball caused the world to sing “I want to be like Mike.” Love is contagious.

Excellence without genuine love is nothing more than a cheap impostor.

Let your light shine, and make it shine brighter everyday. It might help someone else see the way.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M. DeVougas

Question of the Week: What helps you achieve balance? How do you pursue
excellence?


GDGII
http://www.TheSuperSpade.com

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