Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Made In Japan

A long, long, time ago, when I was a kid and Alderaan was still a viable, though far away planet, wars raged on earth and in outer space. In outer space, The Empire blew Alderaan to smithereens and the war on earth finally ground to a halt.   

On earth, before the war, there were no product labels to advise consumers where a product was made or grown.  On Alderaan no consumers survived.

When Japanese businesses began exporting their manufactured goods they were so poorly made American legislators felt compelled to warn consumers of their shoddy construction.  The method of warning was to require that a label stating the product was "made in Japan" be affixed to all items imported from Japan.

In the sixty or so years since, things have changed.  Now consumers know the Made in Japan label  means quality and often they select items so marked over similar "made in the U.S.A." labeled products.

What caused the shift?  In a word, quality.   In many cases we've traded quality for short term profits.  When given a choice between quarterly earnings and integrity we more often than not go for earnings.  

W. Edwards Deming, a quality guru who took his message to Japan after the war, found an open and receptive audience in Japan.  At home many businessmen gave Deming a lot of lip of service but little else. 

Today quality is the underlying key to the success of manufacturing and in outer space tiny fragments of what was once the thriving planet of Alderaan are now little more than road hazards in an obscure corner of the universe.

There are a couple of lessons there for all who are willing to find them.    

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thank You For Your Service

For many years I knew that every Veterans Day there was always one thing I could count on - at some time during the day, no matter where I was, or what I was doing, my phone would ring.  I would answer and then hear her say, "I was just thinking about you and wanted to say, "Thank you for your service."

Therese Godfrey didn't call because I am a veteran.  She called to honor our friendship.  Hell, she knew I only volunteered for Vietnam to find out what the "thousand yard stare" was all about. She also knew I had found out, and in the process,, had contracted a double dose of it.  

Therese Godfrey knew that because "I had it," beneath my skillfully crafted facade, I am as loony as Rambo and Joe Pike rolled into one.  She  knew I could transform faster than Clark Kent and come out of my phone booth like The Hulk on steroids, she had seen it happen.  

Therese knew all of that, and she was still my friend.  She would fight to sit on the front row of one of my seminars and listen to my old stories, laughing and crying like she had never heard them before.

She knew all about me, and it didn't scare her.  Nothing scared her.  Therese told cancer, "You may kill me, but you won't whip my ass."  Cancer did kill her, but it didn't whip her ass.

Today, Therese won't call and say, "Thanks for you service" - at least she won't call on the phone.  Today, and every day, she calls in my heart and every day I get it.  Her call isn't about service.  It's about the power and beauty of friendship.

Thank you for your service my friend.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Form Vs Speed #5 in The Divine Moment Series

For five years, I studied Tai Chi with Master Cheng of The Atlanta Tai Chi Association.   That was twenty plus years ago, and I've lost my memory of the form though I am presently working to regain it.

However, that isn't what this post is about.

I haven't lost my memory of Master Cheng or his most oft repeated, and often recalled admonition - "Maintain the form."

At the conclusion of my first lesson, I was sitting with the class of twenty or so tai chi practitioners who I'd been trying to emulate for the past hour and a half.  They were meditating.  I was trying to catch my breath and remember everything I'd seen when Master Cheng came in, which is a total understatement.  The man, and I'm not sure even that is accurate either, doesn't seem to touch the ground when he moves.  He's a hovercraft without an engine, I thought.  Then in a move that defies description, beyond noting that it was both smooth and nonstop, he descended to the floor at the head of the group, stopping in a picture-perfect lotus position.

Then he made eye contact and smiled slightly at everyone of us. Bowing slightly, he said in a voice that wasn't soft or hard, loud or hushed, "Questions?"

Guess who had one.  If you guessed me, you're right.  I had caught a glimpse of the third level class practicing before my beginner session started, so I blurted out a question from the heart of my western mentality.  Nodding toward the room where the most advanced class was still practicing, I asked, "How long will it be before I'm as good as they are?"

Master Cheng smiled the most benevolent smile I'd ever seen, and said, "Maintain the form Master Bert, and your question will answer itself."

Then he stood, using the opposite technique as he had employed to sit and floated from the room.   There are some moments in each of our lives that are unforgettably.  That was one of mine.  And, I cannot recall a day since that one, when MC's word's, "Maintain the form," haven't come to me at least once.  It is the most often-practiced teaching I've ever received.

Generally speaking, we, as a species, are not about form.  We are about speed.  Mindless speed.  To cite a minor example, as I type this I find myself going faster and faster until I crash or remember to maintain the form.  Speed for the sake of speed ultimately leads to crashes, while maintaining the form assures success and satisfaction.  It is almost too simple.

From The Divine Moment:

Hear the patterns of sound.
Slow down the tempo
of your apprehension;
bring it to a 
still and endless moment.

This will do, will it not,
for Eternity?

Maintain the form and you will arrive at the answer to that question.     

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Slight Trick of the Mind #4 In the Divine Moment Series

A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin, is the book on which the recently released movie, Mr. Holmes, was based.   I've read the book and seen the movie and my comprehensive, albeit short, review is simple.  They are both great.  And, my advice is, read the book before you see the movie.  You'll know why after you have done both.

If you have to do one or the other but can't do both, as much as I love Ian McKellen, my advice is, read the book.  It will last longer and you can carry it with you and, as you will discover, Mitch Cullin is a marvelous writer.

Here's a passage from the book to beef up my argument for the book:

"Not through the dogmas of archaic doctrines will you gain your greatest understandings, but, rather, through the continued evolution of Science, and through your keen observations of the natural environment beyond your windows.  To comprehend yourself truly, which is also to comprehend the world truly, you needn't look any father than at what abounds with life around you - the blossoming meadow, the untrodden woodlands.  Without this as mankind's overriding objective, I don't foresee an age of actual enlightenment ever arriving."

Those words are spoken by the 93 year old Sherlock Holmes to his young friend, Roger Munro.

When I read the passage, I stopped and copied it into my notebook because it is such a beautiful way of restating one of my favorite lines from The Divine Moment, this one:

"A mark of progress
at one stage
is an obstacle at the next." 

Holmes' message to Roger is a great one to use to emphasize what we all must overcome to move successfully through this portion of our evolution as life forms, a process that began eons before we made our appearance on this minor planet, in a mediocre constellation, parked in an obscure corner of the universe, an evolution that will continue long past the time we leave this place on our way to the next.

The guidance we receive in a given moment, no matter how useful or profound, will only serve for a finite period of time and must be released, without regret or hesitation, the moment it no longer serves.

Few of us are willing to release the things that worked so well in the past.  We cling to them long past their point of usefulness.  

Which brings to mind another passage from an old favorite, Illusions - the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, by Richard Bach:

"Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river.  The current of the river swept silently over them all - young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self.  Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current was what each had learned from birth.  But one creature said at last, 'I am tired of clinging.  Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going.  I shall let go, and let take me where it will.  Clinging, I shall die of boredom.

The other creatures laughed and said, 'Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!'  But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks.  Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more."

The longer you've clung to the teachings that brought you to this place, the tougher it will be to turn loose.  No matter.  Of this you can be sure.  If you have the courage to turn loose, the river will lift you to the surface.

Friday, July 17, 2015

I Have A Dream #3 in The Divine Moment Series

On August 28, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr., delivered what has become known as the, "I have a dream speech."

His delivery and content were impeccable, proved by the fact that the presentation has stood the test of time and will continue to do so.

I'm not about to add another commentary to the words he spoke that day from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial,  to over 250,000 supporters.  It's my intention to use that familiar presentation to make a point about a less familiar topic.

First, and you might think this isn't important, but bear with me and let's see:  What Dr. King shared wasn't a dream, it was a vision.  And, to digress, in my opinion it's the most powerful vision anyone of our time has ever shared.

By using the word "dream" instead of "vision" he made his vision otherworldly, since no one knows for sure where dreams come from or what prompts them.  Visions, on the other hand, are equated with personal goals or even wishes.  Hear the difference, "I have a dream..."  "I have a vision..."

In the forty-seven years since he delivered the speech hundreds of millions of us have adopted it as our "dream."  However, each of us has a slightly different, or in some cases, a totally different version of Dr. King's vision.  In fact, to use the word comparison one more time, he had a vision, from his vision we formed a personal dream.  Each of our millions of dreams have been filtered though our individual egos.  Which brings me to my point.

The Divine Moment is a powerful piece of esoteric literature that has totally impacted every facet of my life.  When It Absolutely Positively, is a commentary on the opening lines of the work.  Now, I'll share the first point following the definition, and use Dr. King's vision to assist.

of any kind or degree
of subtlety are of a kind
of "sticky" nature;
they cling to the flow
and drag attention
off center."

The subject of that paragraph is the moment - this moment - the only moment there is.  We all understand what that is.  We all know how to get there and, we all have problems staying there.  That is the problem that is being addressed.  

Our attention is dragged "off center" or out of the moment, not because we have an illness or physical defect, but because we add "subtle characteristics" to what we have experienced in the moment.  For example, what do you think of when you hear or read Dr. King's words, "I am happy to join you today..."  Hopefully not much.  Those words shouldn't generate anything of a "sticky nature," that could snatch you out of the moment.  

Now, what do you feel when you hear or read this line:  "One Hundred years later, the Negro is still not free.  One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination."  

Unless you have trained yourself to recognize and avoid "characteristics of any kind or degree of subtlety," you felt emotion and you probably felt it to the point that you were dragged off center and if not totally out of the moment, at least to its outer edge.

We are run by feelings and emotions that can be triggered by words, recollections, pictures, and actual events.  Until we are aware of that and do something about it, we will forever flit in and out of the moment, never fully knowing or experiencing its infinite beauty, peace, and deep joy.

More on that topic is coming.  Until then,

Remain steady in the Stillness.    

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Railway Man

It's been a long time since I posted a movie review.  One of the reasons for that is, our recent movie/video watching has been dominated by Law & Order.  We've started at Season One, and we are working our through a season at a time.  We're now winding up season eight (of twenty) and though we've seen almost all of them at least once, we're enjoying them again.

Sometime before I filled my Netflix queue with L&O, I added The Railway Man,  Not because of the subject matter but because it co-starred Nicole Kidman.  When The Railway Man showed up Monday, I had forgotten adding it, and the jacket didn't include the cast members, so I had no clue why I'd added it.

Since we'd almost finished all the Law & Order episodes we had in the house, I suggested to Christina that we watch the "mystery movie," for a few minutes at least.  One hour and fifty-eight minutes later we stopped watching it, and I checked to see if I could still talk. Then I managed to say, "If it's alright with you, I'm going to write a blog about it..."

This is it.

The Railway Man is based on the book by Eric Lomax.  The full title of the book is The Railway Man: A POW's Searing Account of War, Brutality and Forgiveness.   A bonus for us was Hiroyuki Sanada, who we fell in love with at some point during our 40+ times watching The Last Samurai (He played the character Ujio).  Just in case Hiroyuki isn't a household name at your house, that's him on the right.

Here's all you need to know about the movie to make a viewing decision.  Colin Firth plays Eric Lomax, Nicole Kidman plays Eric's wife, Patti, and Hiroyuki Sanada plays Nagase.  All of the events happened.  All of the people depicted are real.  The message is timeless and summed up better in one line from the book than I could sum it up in 10,000 words, so I won't try.  Instead, I'll share Eric Lomax's line with you -

"Sometime the hating has to stop." 

If you agree, don't miss The Railway Man.   

Monday, July 13, 2015

When It Absolutely Positively Has To... #2 In The Divine Moment Series

In the mid-eighties, I lived in Memphis, Tennessee, where I was employed by Ryder Truck Rental.  It was my third tour with this company that I loved.  I began my time with Ryder, Memphis, as an account manager.  A year or so later I became the District Sales Manager.  In my new position, I kept a few of my accounts and oversaw the sales efforts of three sales managers.

One of the accounts I retained after my promotion was FedEx.  I kept that account for three reasons.  First, FedEx is headquartered in Memphis.  Second, though not a lease customer, I was convinced they were a solid prospect to be one.  And, third, I had managed to get a national rental agreement with FedEx.  This post isn't a commercial for FedEx, though it could be.  Nor is it a commercial for Ryder Truck Rental, which it also could be.  This post is about being in the moment and the story I'm going to tell you about FedEx is a metaphor for that.

This post is also a lead in to the first installment of The Divine Moment series that I promised last week - If you missed that post and would like to read it, here's the link that will take you to it.

Now, back to Memphis, almost thirty years ago.  It took a number of visits to FedEx to finally get to the right person and quite a few more to find an area where I knew my company might assist them.  I wanted to present a lease proposal but that only came much later, after we proved we could and would do what we said we would do.

First, I had to sell FedEx on renting from us when they needed more equipment than they owned.  The agreement I sold was a standard agreement with one exception.  It specified that if one of our rental units broke down we would not send a service truck to attempt to repair it where it was disabled.  We would instead, without delay, send a wrecker to the disabled unit.  The wrecker would then tow the disabled vehicle to it's destination.

Payment for that service wasn't an issue.  In fact, payment was never an issue.  The only issue was speed.  You see, "When It Absolutely Positively Has To Be There Overnight", was the mission statement that built the company, before it was their advertising slogan.

It costs a lot more money to send a wrecker to a disabled vehicle than it does to send a service truck, and it a costs a whole lot more to have the wrecker tow the vehicle to a location that isn't one of your service facilities.

Because such a provision went against standard, logical procedure, I had to work harder to sell my people on the special provision in the FedEx Rental Agreement and even harder to ensure it was implemented, than I worked to sell FedEx.  In fact, all I had to do to sell FedEx was convince them that we would do what I said we would do.  That is the difference between advertising and being.   Or, in other words, that's the difference between a way of life and empty rhetoric and that brings me to the point of the post.

The Divine Moment, begins:

This moment is it.
There is no better moment
than this one.

The FedEx version might well be:

This moment is absolutely,
positively, the only moment there is.
Do not waste time waiting on a better one
or daydreaming about a historic one.

Come back Thursday for the next lesson from The Divine Moment.