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Ordinary and Extraordinary

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When I lived in Birmingham, Alabama in the late 1980s, I had a friend named Libby. She had one son and made a living painting houses. She seemed to be an ordinary person living an ordinary life. But what many did not know is that she was actually an ordinary person who chose to live an extraordinary life.

Libby was 23 years old when her uncle and three other Ku Klux Klansmen  and segregationist planted at least 15 sticks of dynamite beneath the front steps of the African-American 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. The bombing on Sunday, September 15, 1963, was an act of white supremacist terrorism.  Although in 1965 the FBI concluded the church bombing had been committed by four known Klansmen, no prosecutions ensued until 1977, when Robert Chambliss was tried and convicted of first degree murder of one of the victims. My friend Elizabeth (Libby) H. Cobb, was star witness for the prosecution against her uncle, who was convicted, in large part, as a result of her testimony. After the trial, threats and harassment from Ku Klux Klan members and others forced Libby and her son to leave Birmingham for several years.

Dictionary.com defines courage – the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., with bravery.

I cannot tell you my friend Libby was not afraid to testify, to expose her uncle for his part in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and the many other atrocities he committed. In fact, on several occasions she shared with me how afraid she was to do what she chose to do. However, she did not let fear stop her from standing up to courageously do the right thing.

You and I are surrounded by every-day heroes. People who refuse to allow fear, evil, injustice, hate, to have the upper hand. People of courage who stand up for what is right because it is the right thing to do. Brave people who show us how to live an ordinary life in an extraordinarily courageous way.

Nothing to Hide and No One to Hide it From

'Integrity' highlighted in green

When I was young I had many experiences that convinced me beyond doubt – you and I are souls – spiritual beings on great human adventures. And, through much trial and error I came to appreciate we create our best life by living from the soul part of ourselves.

I know soul to be the part of our being where the original creative consciousness put a spark of itself into our human form. That Divine part of us, soul, is where the values of #LOVE (peace, kindness, respect, responsibility, honesty, intuition, wisdom, etc.) reside. In addition to soul, we are also a human being with a personality and ego – sense of self.

A healthy ego (soul in the lead) allows us to see ourselves in others, to consider the needs, thoughts and desires of others. With a healthy sense of self we can see the big picture and how all life is connected. A healthy ego welcomes constructive criticism and accepts responsibility for our thoughts, words and the consequences of our actions. A healthy ego desires to learn from the experience and observations of others, our history, and from our negative choices. A healthy, balanced sense of self depends on the moral and ethical integrity of soul to guide our thoughts, words, actions, evaluations and decisions.

An unhealthy ego (wounded, victim, arrogant, bully, controlling, blaming, vindictive, self-centered sense of self) discounts the ethical and moral soul part of ourselves, and others. An unhealthy ego is focused on satisfying its unending lust for power, wealth, praise, and control, and will vilify and blame anyone who gets in its way. Ego will justify any behavior to get what ego wants when and how ego wants it. Including being dishonest with ourselves about ourselves and being dishonest with ourselves about others. Self-centered ego has no problem lying about anything to anyone and is very skilled at getting others to believe the lies it tells. Therefore, I learned one of the most important values to uphold, to stay aligned with soul – the spiritual part of us – is honesty (truthfulness, freedom from deceit or fraud.)

Honesty keeps us connected to soul, to the Divine, to the good, positive and caring part of us. Being honest is a cornerstone of a true spiritual connection to the Divine because honesty creates a clean, positive life where we have nothing to hide and no one to hide it from. The transparency of being honest is the foundation of all successful and mutually beneficial relationships because truthfulness produces trust, respect, and no hidden agendas.

Truthfulness will always be hugely important in creating our best life. BUT in today’s world, transparent integrity is even more vital to our happiness and peace because some people commanding our attention are blatantly lying without remorse, regret or ethical and moral misgivings. There are people in positions of “perceived” power who are spreading fake news, conspiracy theories, and trash talk with absolute disregard for facts, research and the investigative endeavors of others. This dishonest egocentric lying creates a lack of respect for the reliable information necessary to keep us informed. And, of equal importance, anyone who does not care about honesty, or telling, knowing or acknowledging the truth, is operating without ethical and moral supervision over themselves, their actions, their thoughts and their life. Without a moral compass they cannot make the best decisions for themselves or anyone else.

No relationship, whether between partners, friends, neighbors, countries, political leaders and their citizens, or world-leaders will be peaceful, respectful, and beneficial unless there is a priority placed on honest and impeccable values. Only when heart is involved do we stop to care how our actions, our words, our agenda will impact others. Only with soul can we have the courage to treat others as we want to be treated. Only with soul can we truly know an untruth when we hear it. And, only with soul’s wisdom are we capable of seeing the big picture to view the challenges we face from a different perspective and bring a higher level of awareness to solve what egocentric blindness cannot.

God gave each of us a soul so we can care for one another. God gave us a soul so we can think before we act. God also gave each of us the power of choice to be ruled by a wounded ego sense of self; to discount and deny our soul’s wisdom in order to justify our actions and the actions of those in positions of “perceived” power. OR, we can choose to lead with the higher, wiser, loving part of ourselves to be truly powerful over our selfish egocentric side.

One way you and I choose to lead with the best of ourselves – soul (our LOVE connection to the Divine) – is through valuing honesty, in ourselves and others.

Love Deeper Than Some Hate

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Over the course of my 60 years of life I’ve been beaten, persecuted, hated and threatened for being “different.” And you know the interesting part – WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT! Each of us was created to be unique by the Divine.

I knew I was gay around age four or five. I can’t tell you how I knew but it is not uncommon for gay people to know at such an early age. As you can imagine it was a secret I kept as long as possible. I dared not tell anyone. I knew exactly what would happen because each time I entered church or went to school it was made very clear just how much my “kind” was hated.

At age eighteen I finally told my parents and yes, my worst nightmare did come true. I was sent to a physician who sexually molested me. Then I was locked in a psychiatric hospital because they thought I was depressed. I was despondent because I’d just been violated and the two people who were supposed to love me told me I was a business risk, I was going to hell, that I broke their hearts, and I should go live at the YWCA.  My parents were taught by their religion to despise gay people while also having to make sense of contradictory messages such as “thou shall not judge” and “love your neighbor as yourself” and “treat other people as you want to be treated.” Now faced with their worst nightmare too, they feared being shunned by their religious, social and business communities.  Their solution was for me to change so they sent me to a psychiatrist in another town. I’ll never forget the look on my parent’s face when the doctor told them he would not and could not change me since I was #BornThisWay. Like so many other things that make us unique, being gay is biological, no matter what we are taught to believe in ancient religious beliefs that justify condemning others. So what the doctor would do is help me learn to accept myself in a world that flat out did not.

Today, my parents are two of my biggest fans and best friends. They no longer fear being shunned or hated themselves because over forty years ago they began bravely questioning their beliefs. When they did, they found love is stronger than fear. Acceptance more loving than judgment. And, what other people think of me is not as important as what they know to be true of me.  It turns out my parents always loved me. They just had no clue how to accept me while also following their religious beliefs. Apparently they made peace with that because the only thing I now feel from them is complete and unconditional love. The same as if Jesus himself were loving me.

With each harmful action I see happening as a result of the green flag some feel they have been given to act on their hate of those who are different than they are, the resolve I have to do whatever is necessary to #BeLoveInAction to support ALL of my fellow American’s and “different” citizens of our world – black, brown, white, young, old, Muslim, Jewish, disabled, gay, – has strengthened. After a life-time of being hated for being born gay – something so irrelevant to my character – I know my decision to stand up #Indivisible against those who desire to divide us is clear, because I will not go back on the promise I made to God to #LoveDeeper than some hate.

I am not alone. Jesus made a similar decision long ago. I look at my decision as simply doing what Jesus would as #AnAmbassadorOfLove.

When Not Knowing It All is Great!

Outstanding Nation

I spent twenty years getting a formal education. I received a high school diploma, an associate’s degree and my bachelor’s. After being in the work world for many years I returned to earn a master’s degree in management/leadership. It was a three year, forty-eight credit hour executive program which meant I was required to have a certain number of years’ experience in supervisory, management and executive positions to be considered for admissions.

It’s been twenty-two years since I received my graduate degree. Before my master’s degree, and after, my work history included running for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. I was privileged to manage, recruit and train large staffs and allocate large budgets. I wrote and implemented several long-term strategic and marketing plans. I hired and released many people during my professional tenure. As CEO and COO I was the spokesperson, the leader, the face of the organization, and liaison to other organizations. Therefore, as the person at the top, the success or failure, while not completely on my shoulders alone, did finally rest with me.

I have an idea of how effective organizations work and the leadership skills necessary to guide them to success. And, while I readily admit I do not know everything about running every organization, I have learned much about what does and does not work. So, here are a few fundamental things I’ve learned. I share these with you as we watch our current political climate unfold because it is always responsible to remember WE THE 325 + Million PEOPLE of the United States are the major (stakeholders) in our country (organization).

Any successful endeavor, whether it is a personal or professional relationship, depends on clear, concise, thorough, frequent and direct communication. There can be no ambiguity, lying, taunting, false news stories, vilifying investigative reporting, bullying, egocentric posturing, or mixed messages in a successful organization. Without transparent, regular, respectful and honest communication there will be NO trust built among workers, stakeholders and constituents. Without trust there will be no success for the leadership. Eventually those who do not communicate effectively and honestly are deemed untrustworthy and are removed from the organization.

Each productive, respected and effective leader gains a majority buy-in of a mission, vision and strategic plan for the organization. A strategic plan is developed with care and great attention to detail. While an organization must remain flexible to move with the ebb and flow of unforeseen circumstances in achieving its goals, a sound and competent leader does not vacillate wildly on the direction of the organization. Organizations do not succeed, long-term, if the goals of leadership and those in positions of power fluctuate crazily or differ from the goals of the majority of shareholders (majority of citizens in our scenario).

Without seasoned and experienced employees in key positions, the drain on organizational resources (money, time, efficiency, strategy, opportunities, relationships, etc.) will be much greater than for a leader who hires the best qualified for a job. Effective leadership hires those with relevant and applicable experience for the position for which they are hired. Leaders know to establish cohesion and effectiveness within the organization there must be appropriate experience in positions of great importance. A real danger to overall organizations success is that those hired (appointed) without the necessary and applicable experience may have conflicts of interest between a personal agenda and the goals of the organization (citizens). Also, inexperience creates a learning curve situation, and naïveté may create challenges and controversies for the organization that experience and training could prevent.

Whether an organization is large or small, the person (people) at the top need to remain in touch with the masses who work for and are benefited by the organization. Listening to those from the lowest to highest levels is mandatory for decision-makers. Without a finger on the pulse of the people who make up an organization (majority of citizens) no leader will be effective or last any length of time. Eventually, organizational culture will disintegrate as a result of leadership disconnectedness. The organization will become stagnated and ineffective. One warning sign of stagnation is that the organization experiences internal conflict and stops producing positive and desired results.

Ethical, moral and legal impeccability begins at the top and is mirrored down the line. Unethical and illegal business dealings will eventually be the downfall of any dishonest organization as stakeholders (citizens) always demand the best behavior from those in positions of power over others. The bottom line is, we truly admire those who remain people of honorable character, no matter how big the bribe. And no corrupt organization can withstand the eventual backlash created by disgruntled stakeholders.

Overall, effective leaders are composed, balanced, honest, and exude an air of dependable, rational mental and physical decorum. Executive excellence is dependent on authentic, humble self-confidence, self-control, forethought, integrity, respect for differing points of view and a devotion to creating compromise. Only the world’s autocrats, dictators and tyrants view those who disagree with them as enemies. True leaders welcome differing as an effective tool to the collaborative process. Effectual leadership knows cooperative dialogue and varying points of view results in the best solutions to challenges. Successful leaders know they do not know everything.