Return on Integrity Discover the Groundbreaking Nature of ROI Fri, 11 Jan 2019 19:25:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Return on Integrity 32 32 Time to Get Quacking Thu, 03 Jan 2019 15:42:39 +0000 My oldest brother, Mark, majored in music composition and subsequently spent his professional life in the music industry. I don’t know if his exact title was music arranger, but that was how I thought of him.  He arranged music … more specifically he arranged musical notes, yet in a way they would come to life.

It was amazing for me to watch him sketch-out beautifully drawn musical notes on a blank piece of sheet music. It was much like the notes were magically starting to sing right from the paper. I was still in my later years of grade school when I first watched him do this. He would draw the variety of musical notes faster than I could write the single words to the sentence of a letter.

While it appeared that the notes poured from the ink in his fountain pen, I knew they really flowed from his head, heart and soul. He had a deep love for music and was genuinely gifted at it.

I had the love … just without the gift.

Yet, just by watching him, he taught me more than he will ever know about loving and using the gifts you do have. He also taught me how to have some fun with your gifts. During one of my summer breaks from college, Mark called me to come over his house. He wanted me to hear a fun little jingle they had thrown together for a Memphis morning-drive radio personality, Rick Dees. Mark had written the trumpet section of this arrangement. Weeks later, that fun little piece would turn-out to be a run-away hit around the world hitting the #1 spot for a week on Billboard’s Top 100. It was called Disco Duck.

Based on that one song, Rick Dees would subsequently catapult his career from Memphis to Los Angeles morning radio. Disco Duck would go on to win the People’s Choice Award for Favorite New Song that year. Mark couldn’t bear to watch — cringing at the thought that this satirical novelty song would win such an award. While he had a lot of fun helping put together what was meant to be a fun little joke for Rick Dee’s morning show, he was disappointed we would confuse such an effort with real music.

Sometimes we also get confused about integrity.

We settle for satirical novelty versions of the real thing. We don’t do it on purpose, yet the results are the same.  Integrity is not a soundbite. It is a state of being. Whole. Entire. Undiminished. It’s the one essential thing — to everything. And when we settle for less, we leave powerful gifts inside us — unsung.

It is dangerous to make assumptions about the state and depth of our own integrity. Yet we often do.

On New Year’s Day we released Return On Integrity: The Individual’s Journey to the One Essential Thing. It holds the potential to unleash amazing gifts from your core if you will take the journey. Much like the musical notes that flowed from Mark’s head, heart and soul, you will find that your values will eventually begin to appear as a masterpiece you may never have imagined. And when they do, your needs, wants and behaviors will come to life as a whole new song.

Integrity is the most natural thing in the world. Your integrity is ready to sing and dance. Are you ready?

It might just be your time to take a “quack” at it!

CLICK HERE to view a 2-minute trailer for this new release. Now immediately available on Amazon.

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Unleashing the One Essential Thing Thu, 06 Dec 2018 15:22:45 +0000 It was a tense scene in the courtroom of A Few Good Men. Tom Cruise was verbally unleashing on Jack Nicholson. And then came Nicholson’s famous line from the movie – “You can’t handle the truth.” There is no doubt that truth can be hard. Inconvenient. Eye-opening. And life transforming … individually and collectively.

It sometimes seems that truth can be very evasive. Yet, that’s an illusion. This illusion is a reflection of our own evasiveness from truth. Truth — is truth. Sometimes we spin truth to align with our own opinions, beliefs, wants and needs. Rarely is that done intentionally or even consciously. Yet, it is more likely when we are not grounded-in the one essential thing:


Integrity is our alignment to truth – our expression of it. Integrity is not about compliance or control. Compliance and control are made necessary because of our lack of grounding in integrity. This is true in the cultures of organizations as well as our own personal behaviors.

As my work has continued to dive ever-deeper into exploring integrity, I have been lovingly taught that truth is found when we take a stance of least resistance. As you explore integrity in a stance of least resistance … you don’t find it. It finds you.

Six years ago, on a cool spring day, I sat on a cold stone bench in the beautiful Spruce Plot of the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. For me, it was a defining moment. I had one thing in mind as I looked down at the blank pad of paper tucked in the portfolio sitting on my lap — the need to redefine what first came to mind for a leader at the top of any organization when they thought of ROI.

This redefinition did seem a little daunting. Possibly even unrealistic in today’s world. After all, creating a return on investment is a noble cause rightfully seen as an expression of accountability and a sense of stewardship. Yet, I also realized in a world embracing accelerating speed – moving past the concept of change into an era of continual disruption – that a relentless focus on this ROI of return on investment was also fraught with potential fractures. Disconnects. And sometimes untruth. There was a more important ROI – not just another thing, but rather the essence of everything:

Return On Integrity.

I also knew that in the marketplace it had to begin with the leader at the very top. Four years later Return On Integrity: The New Definition of ROI and Why Leaders Need to Know It was published. It was specifically written for the top leader to address their own personal journey with realistic insights into this journey’s rough terrain. It was then a direct call to lead others on that same journey with the organizational development roadmap to scale it across their organization.

While the importance of the top leader’s role in owning and leading a return on integrity in their organization remains clear to me, it has also become clear that they are no more important on this journey than every other member in the organization.

Every. Single. Individual.

In May of this year, I returned to that same stone bench in the Spruce Plot — this time focused solely on the individual.  Every individual. And their own personal journey to the one essential thing.

This New Year’s Day we unleash the opportunity for every individual to begin their own journey to a deeper richer sense of integrity with Return On Integrity: The Individual’s Journey to the One Essential Thing.

Over the last few years, I have also lovingly been taught that we are all ONE. It is precisely what integrity is all about. Integrated. And it is precisely why individuals matter. It is true in any organization and in the life of each individual. Integrity is about each one – and then everyone. It is not easy. It just happens to be wonderful – and essential. It is a truth we can handle.

CLICK HERE to view a 2-minute trailer for this new release. Pre-orders are now available on Amazon.  Shipments begin New Year’s Day!

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Limited by Likeness Thu, 25 Oct 2018 14:37:28 +0000 Recently, I met an individual who was sharing his excitement of a new discussion group he had joined. I was inspired by his genuine enthusiasm. Yet, one of his terms of endearment for the group stirred my thinking: We are all like-minded.

On the surface, it felt logical.  Understandable.  Invigorating.

And seductive.

It also sounded comfortable in a time of his own season of transition. There is an element in all of us that longs for the comfort brought by the familiar and the similar – along with the affirmation that comes from such natural bonds. After all, isn’t that the defining nature of most any affinity group?

It shows-up in so many arenas of our life – schools, sports, church, nations, and the demographic choosing of your like.

Likeness serves a purpose until it doesn’t.

I have periodically expressed my reluctance of talking politics and religion with people who agree with me. It’s not that I can’t learn something, though normally it comes in the form of grounding me deeper into what is already ingrained. That feels good, but rarely stretches me. I thoroughly enjoy a conversation where we come from different viewpoints, experiences, opinions and beliefs. When each is willing to genuinely listen and explore what is unfamiliar and often uncomfortable to them, we can begin to wonder and wander into the unknown of each other.

In all fairness, I love likeness. But what I love more is when likeness is richly discovered in the midst of differences. It is rarely found on the surface, but in the territory beyond our perceived limitations.

Sound bites aren’t particularly helpful — like salt in a wound. Salty sound bites only serve to long-preserve the attachment to ideas resting in our already made-up minds. In a rapidly changing world of disruption, like-minded is what we want. Diversity is what we need. Yet, the essence grounded deep in our core is what serves us well.

It is the place where real likeness is found.

Years ago, a friend had a dream that she was facing a massive brown rock and there was no way around it. Throughout the dream she faced the rock feeling completely stuck. She shared the dream with her counselor. He asked her, rather than focusing on the desire to move forward, to start mentally stepping back from the rock and tell him what she saw. Slowly, she began to share a sense of first standing-up before stepping back. As she began to step back, she described the massive rock proportionately falling into the context of a small stone lying in the midst of a beautiful massive field in front of her. Closeness can, in fact, block our connection to a broader context.

Sometimes we have to step away from what we so clearly see and know, to curtail a paradoxical blindness. Where we are standing, or where we are lying, can have a limiting impact on all we see.  So can relying on the love we have for regularly hanging-out with the like-minded.

Biblically speaking, Proverbs advises that iron sharpens iron. This doesn’t necessarily sound like advice for a surface level feel-good gathering.  And it would be easy to understand this as the like-minded hanging-out together. I would suggest it more likely addresses the sharpness we may feel in the midst of differences – as well as the sharpness we can develop when we go there with courage and grace.

We often use our likeness to blind us and our differences to divide us. 

It seems that we would be far better served to engage in our differences venturing through a common experience where we initially learn to like and eventually come to love each other. It takes going well beyond our behaviors, wants and needs (and, yes, our minds) to get there. It is there that we discover the limitless nature of our core.

It’s worth getting up and stepping back. There is so much more to see.

As always, I’d be grateful for you sharing your thoughts and experiences below.

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Driven to Awareness Thu, 27 Sep 2018 12:00:31 +0000 I’m sure a case could be made that, through more intentional observation, every activity – interaction, conversation, and decision – is an opportunity for greater awareness. Yet, some activities are surely more telling than others. Driving habits is indeed a telling activity.

Last Thursday, I drove into Chicago to meet two friends for lunch. There wasn’t anything unusual about the drive except the extended search for parking and an increased sense of observation on a perfectly beautiful eve of autumn. As I weaved through the Fulton Market area there was plenty to notice. For some reason, I took particular notice of the variety of driver habits weaving through the tight streets and a plethora of construction obstacles.

On my return trip to the burbs, I resumed my observation of driver habits. No judgement, only observation – for the most part! Moving back through the tight city streets, open interstate, tollways, mid-afternoon “rush hour” bumper-to-bumper back-ups and finally amongst the busy suburban avenues – provided a variety of context to observe plenty of driving habits. Somewhere between the bumpers, my mechanical observations leaped to an uncertain awareness:

How one drives may say a whole lot about who they really are.

I’m sure we have all known that calm cool collected individual who turns into a completely different person behind the wheel of a car. Some of us have seen them in the mirror.

Driving includes a lot of choices, sometimes quick decisions, a variety of distractions and a mixture of give-and-take. It also provides fertile ground to reveal selflessness or self-interest.

The roads create common ground. The “rules of the road” don’t change based on the value of your vehicle, where you are driving from or to, the distance of your trip or circumstances of your day. The title of your position or circumstances of your family don’t authorize your own set of rules. Regardless of the terrain on which you drive, it levels the playing field.

And this playing field is your daily opportunity for awareness.

My brother, Steve, first pointed-out to me the psychological opportunity that driving the speed limit provides each of us. Subsequent conversations, with numerous psychologists, have confirmed what he shared with me: It is a constant limit you impose, regardless of what everyone else is doing. If your immediate reaction to this “speed limit” virtue is arguing the case for going-with-the-flow, you will certainly find grounds for making a point. You may also find a trap for building convenient excuses.

Yet, driving the speed limit is just one telling habit of driving. Merging is another – both those allowing others to appropriately merge as well as those passing a long line of cars, waiting to exit, only to force their own merge near the front of that line. Tailgating must certainly be a sign of aggression or a misconception of perceived progress. Signals are thoughtful. Some hand signals are not. Repeatedly and aggressively changing lanes in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic is your dead give-away. I’m certain, from experience, you could add a number of other telling habits to this list – through both your own observations – and confessions.

Some driving habits are critical for safety. For instance, stopping for red lights and stop signs is a good place to start. Other habits are more reflective of deeper character or just common consideration of others. Kirstin, my future daughter-in-law, likes to observe that some drivers seem to think their time is more valuable than everyone else’s time. Sometimes the truth beneath our actions aren’t intentional, yet no less truthful. As guilty parties, we sometimes don’t bother to connect the dots. If you are feeling a little defensive at this point, I know the feeling!

Not only are there more cars on the road, there are more distractions within them: cell phones, navigation systems and entertainment to name a few. Concoct a blend of these distractions, some questionable driving habits and a self-examination and you might have trouble recognizing the character of your own self behind the wheel.

It has been said: integrity is what you do when no one is watching.  When it comes to driving, many seem to recast that quote: integrity is what you do when “no one you know” is watching! The fact is, when you are driving, everyone is watching! The driving habits of others may tell us more about them than they would like to admit.

An analysis of our own driving habits will do the same.

As you drive along the road, you will arrive at a whole new place if you allow yourself to be driven to awareness – possibly just a little closer to your core values. Those values make the perfect fuel for better driving!

What bad driving habit is your pet peeve? How could it teach us a valuable lesson on our own road of life? Please share your insights below.

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Doorways Thu, 30 Aug 2018 18:07:40 +0000 Metaphors can often help us see when we can’t find the exact words to say. When it comes to integrity and more precisely core values, I have come to find increasing value in the gift of metaphors as I try to share the insight and wisdom I gleam from others who are digging to their core.

Metaphors are never precise.  Their value isn’t found in black and white, either/or structures.  They don’t tell you what something “is” — but rather share with you what something is “like.” They are known to leave room at the margins for you to finish the script in how it speaks to you.  Metaphors don’t tell you what to think.

They invite you to explore.

A word that wasn’t amongst my vocabulary, has recently found its way to the tip of my tongue and seems to appear at most every turn: ineffable. Webster defines ineffable as an adjective incapable of being expressed in words — a definition that is a paradox of sorts if you really think about it.

As I’m able to walk alongside mature, smart professionals, I witness the struggle they experience in their sincere attempt to dig to their core values with well-intentioned precision.  I continue to search for explanations of universal struggle as many continue digging — or choose to stop.

In my search, I continue to expand my own reading on how our brain and mind work — exploring when they are useful in our dig and perhaps when they can get in the way.  Could it possibly be our rush for precision in naming our core values that might be getting in the way?  It may also be our desire to grab what is familiar and comfortable.  Describing behaviors, wants and needs — especially important behaviors, wants and needs, that we deeply value, can derail us.  They tend to be more top of mind, precise and sometimes pose as a charade of our core.

It seems the rush to precision doesn’t serve us well in the dig to our core.

Maybe the very essence of metaphors has something to teach us.  Perhaps it is a metaphor’s vagueness that helps us understand that we will not find what we are looking for, but rather what we are looking for will find us. Richard Rhor captures a valuable truth — every metaphor limps.  They are not meant to be literal and lose their value when we try to make them so.

Eventually digging with patience and persistence, leads us to words that, at best, describe what our core values are like.  It may serve us well to initially think of these words through a metaphor — our values are not a destination to be reached.

They are each a doorway.

The word we choose is our first step across the threshold.  In walking through the doorway we just begin to understand a bit about that value. It is in living the value that we come to know it — initially seeing what it is like in numerous scenarios that present themselves as living metaphors.

Over time, what we will likely find is that these values will come to life in living color as they dig their way into our needs, wants and behaviors.  And sometimes, we will discover they deserve a new name that more precisely describes how we have come to know them best.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

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Best Intentions Thu, 26 Jul 2018 12:00:08 +0000 In the not so distant past, phones were solely an audio tool. Today, not so much … as they’ve evolved into much more of a visual device. And when used in the right place, at the right time for the right reason … they can be a valuable asset. Yet, that same phone can be very costly when it becomes an appendage of unconscious, bad or simply routine habits.

At a minimum, it can be distracting. At worst, it can be destructive … to our productivity, our relationships, and ultimately to the trajectory of our journey. That’s what happens when a tool becomes the focal point. Random becomes the routine. And the routine becomes an addiction.

I’m sure most of us have experienced glimpses of this when we randomly pull our phone from our pocket and aimlessly dive into one, two or a few apps. I know I have … more times than I want to admit. If you haven’t, just look around in any crowd and you will see what I mean. When the tool becomes the focal point, it comes with a cost.

The same is true of our behaviors, wants and needs.

Behaviors, wants and needs, in so many ways, are just tools. Yet, for many, they have become the focal point. One definition for “focal point” is the central or principal point of focus. This focal point is the object of your attention.

As I delved deeper into my work on core values, I had no idea what a roadblock our focus on needs, wants and behaviors would be in understanding and embracing core values. It’s not that they aren’t important … it’s the undue importance that we have come to put on them that can get in the way.

Paying attention can be a great thing unless it’s void of an intention from your core. Unintended attention can lead to a lot of useless activity … like randomly checking your cell phone! And it can lead to a lot worse when it comes to our behaviors, wants and needs.

Attention without the right intention leads to core tension.

In our fast-paced world, we seem to give a lot of attention to behaviors, wants and needs. Just take a sampling of corporate training programs or self-help books. At the same time, most don’t give near the same attention to their core values. While totally understandable, this combination eventually dilutes any sense of real intention. Behaviors, wants and needs are tangible and visual … and therefore a little closer to our comfort zone. Yet, much like checking our cell phones, they can become quite random. Band-aid solutions in many cases.

In fact, so much attention has been given to behaviors, wants and needs, that many a list of personal and organizational core values are simply words or phrases reflecting valued behaviors, wants and needs. Not actually core values. Behaviors, wants and needs should be a reflection of our core values. Not vice versa. It’s a little tricky and actually very fluid.

So, the direction of the flow matters!

Intention, grounded in a set of core values, fuels a more valuable sense of attention … and in-turn you get a whole different level of value from your needs, wants and behaviors. When the flow is moving in the wrong direction … that is behaviors, wants and needs unintentionally defining core values rather than core values fueling needs, wants and behaviors … you end-up experiencing an unhealthy tension at your core.

Yet, when your core values are the fabric of your intention, you create a healthy tension amongst your needs, wants and behaviors. And, who knows, it could even help you use your cell phone in the right place, at the right time for the right reason!

There is no telling what kind of value that could bring our world!!

It might be worth spending a little front porch time taking a look at your core values. Are they really core values … or just a reflection of behaviors, wants and needs that you value? In building a return on integrity, we are not looking for what we value … we are looking for what are our values. It is a lot more than just a play on words.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

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From Where I Stand Thu, 28 Jun 2018 14:50:07 +0000 Recently, my wife and I were looking out of different kitchen windows to our backyard. She was repeatedly trying to point-out a baby bunny in the grass which I was failing to see. She finally said, “Come over here … you can’t see it from where you’re standing because I think the tree is in your way!” I walked a few steps over to the other window and immediately could see the baby bunny.

I didn’t think much about it at the time. At least, until a few days later when I was in a discussion where we weren’t trying to see bunnies, but rather different points of view. It got me thinking about that baby bunny again and wondering … how much do we not see because of where we are “standing?” And just what we might see if we would simply …

Walk over and look out another window.

In the years I worked at Arthur Andersen’s world headquarters in Chicago, I had a nine-block walk between the train station and my office. That 20-minute walk proved to beneficial in a number of ways. I became quite proficient at my timing of the walk to efficiently board the train with only 60-90 seconds remaining before departure. It was also a great built-in exercise program for sure. Yet, what proved most beneficial was something I stumbled upon one beautiful spring afternoon when I left the office for the train station just a few minutes early.

While I’m generally aware of others around me, I intentionally started noticing everyone along the way. With the heavy winter wear discarded for the spring temperatures, the diversity of all on their way somewhere stood-out just a bit more. As I boarded the train, the images of those whom I had noticed on the walk stayed with me. It dawned on me that if I could sit down with any one of those individuals for a whole afternoon … they would have a unique story to share about their life journey.

The thought inspired me into a new habit … to leave the office a few minutes early, just one day a week, to intentionally notice individuals along the way and wonder about their story. The stories of those rushing to the train, others aimlessly strolling along, young moms or dads pushing strollers, sweating joggers, workers visibly stressed inside and out, those of different colors, either gender, different orientations, a variety of sizes and an endless array of experiences … would each be unique. Their own stories would likely be a mixture of victories and defeats, joy and tragedy, connection and isolation. Probed deeply with interest and without judgment, I envisioned how each would be intriguing to hear.

I loved those walks to the train. And I love stories. Yet, I’ve also come to realize how much our stories can get in the way …

When we solely let them determine where we stand.

There is no question, that our stories can determine what we see. And they can determine all we see if we let them. Our stories also have a way of greatly influencing our needs, wants, opinions, beliefs and behaviors if we let give them permission. Sometimes that can be good … and sometimes it can be blinding. Especially when we get too focused on our own story and are blind to the stories of others.

As I’ve watched so many commit to the journey to discover the values at their core … I’ve seen them remove the blinders created by needs, wants, opinions, beliefs, behaviors (and yes, their stories). It’s nothing short of walking over to look out of a completely different window.

From there, it’s amazing what you will see in your own story … and in the stories of others.

Maybe it could give new meaning to the first line of our USA Star Spangled Banner … Oh, say can you see? It makes for a great question. I suppose it all depends on where you are standing … or sitting … or kneeling. And if you are digging.

If all of us … and each of us … committed to the journey of deeply digging to our core, we might be more interested in discovering each other’s stories and helping each other see just a little more clearly. And from there, we may very well find the moment where we could all stand together, sit together and kneel together … to respect what our nation should stand for … each other.

Wishing you a wonderful Fourth of July and the potential for which it can stand for all.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts below …

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Bird Watch Thu, 24 May 2018 16:47:58 +0000 It’s not unusual, when meeting a new acquaintance who is discovering that I speak professionally, for them to respond, “you must fly a lot.” I simply smile and answer, yes. Yet, technically, I don’t fly at all … I ride a lot. Birds fly. I don’t. I just wish I could. Maybe you do too.

I’ve always found birds fascinating. Growing up, my cousins had pet birds. Those birds seemed tiny yet bigger than life with their bold colors. I’ve never been one to intentionally go out to formally “bird watch.” I’ve known people who do. It’s fascinating how they can so patiently watch and then immediately name the most unique varieties of the smallest to largest of these wonderful creatures.

These bird-watchers are like radars spotting birds through binoculars or with their naked eyes. Personally, I don’t find birds. They find me. And when they do …

I notice them. Every. Single. Time.

Some of these experiences are more pronounced than others. Yet, each time, there is always some level of connection. I don’t think much about what kind of bird they are. I just notice them as one individual bird … whether they notice me or not. We usually seem to share the space together well.

A decade of summers ago, that simply wasn’t the case. We didn’t seem to share the space together very well at all. Nor did he seem to care that I had legal documents to prove that I “owned” the land our home was built on! His family nest was somewhere nearby, and he made it clear that he was going to aggressively protect it from me … whether he needed to or not.

I normally love cutting the grass. Not that summer! This bird would start dive-bombing about 5 minutes into the cut. He never actually attacked but had the amazing ability to do precision high-speed fly-bys within an inch of my right eye. Not once. Not twice. Usually about 20 times per cutting. It was seriously unnerving. Every. Single. Time. It wasn’t just me. Throughout the summer I would look out our back-kitchen bay window and see my neighbor panic as he was getting dive-bombed while cutting his grass.

I’ll admit … that was hilarious to watch!

That bird and I never developed a sense of connection. If only he could’ve known, I meant no harm to him or his family nest. That would have saved him a lot of time and energy. It would have saved my nerves a lot too!

Two weeks ago, I attended a one-day silent retreat at the beautiful Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL. At a silent-retreat, you get to notice a lot of things. And there were a lot of birds to be noticed. Not one of them seemed to be concerned about me. Yet, the one I noticed most, seemed to be concerned about himself.

Walking along the nearby sidewalk, I came upon him and hoped he wouldn’t fly away. In my silence, I just wanted to spend some time noticing him. Connecting. He didn’t seem concerned with me at all. He was anxiously occupied with the reflection of himself in the window just inches away from where he fidgeted.

I watched him repeatedly fly full on into that window to attack his own reflection. I stood there silently sad. How could I not? As I watched him spending his time attacking his very own image, I was fully aware …

He had the opportunity to spend his day flying!

As I slowly walked away in silence, I couldn’t help but hear his repeated thud against the window. And as the day continued, I couldn’t help but hear the silence within me ask … how often do we spend our time fighting ourselves when we could better be spending our time flying?

We can spend an awful lot of time fighting those who mean us no harm at all … or spend all of our time fighting our own reflection. And, today, many use social media to do it publicly. What’s really sad is that social media was created just like most any other thing…

With the opportunity to fly.

We might be well-served to venture-out on a stroll this summer and take notice of a bird in full-flight.  As you stand there, fly with them. I have no doubt, if you stand there long enough, you will discover something you could move from fight to flight.

As you take flight, I hope you enjoy a wonderful summer breeze!

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts below…


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Sound Check Thu, 26 Apr 2018 12:00:57 +0000 Over the last couple of years, I’ve become a big fan of something I never imagined. Audio books. I have always been the kind of reader who likes to dissect the pages of book. I go through a lot of highlighters in great books. I underline, use asterisks, and make notations in the margin. You can’t do that in an audio book. You could take notes on a notepad or iPad I suppose. Yet, it’s just not the same. And, of course, the audio keeps going. You could pause it. But that gets way too complicated and seemingly disruptive, at least for me.

Audio books do come with their own benefits. I love to close my eyes and just let the author’s story and insights wash over me. I prefer the narration to be the voice of the author. They intuitively know how they felt and what they meant as they were initially penning the original manuscript. Yet, by the time an author sits in a recording studio the manuscript has been worked, reworked and laid to rest … then brought to life as a completed book.

Reading your own work out loud is like an odd mix of an out-of-body experience and déjà vu … except in this case you really have been there before.

I began my own walk down that memory lane today.

Hunkered-down in a padded recording studio, I began to record the words of my book, Return On Integrity. Except for the periodic vocal directions of Charlie, the wonderful sound engineer on the other side of the glass, I was alone. Well, not exactly alone. I was with a completed narrative whom I intimately knew. We had spent a lot of time together during the long days, weeks and months of its creation.

We were together again. Yet, this time it was different. Rather than the words pouring out of me into it … as I narrated from page to page, its words were pouring back into me.

It’s a tedious process to record a book into its audio expression. To answer an obvious question that I’ve been repeatedly asked … yes, you actually sit and read every word of the book, out-loud. Every. Single. Word. The only difference between you and any other reader of the book is that you already know it, because you wrote it.

Or at least you knew it back then.

By the time I sat in a recording studio today, the context of our fast-moving world has continued to evolve. And this refreshed context allowed me to see my own content through a fresh set of eyes. I had come to think that integrity could best be described with three words: whole, entire and undiminished … as the state of being fully integrated.

And, today, as Charlie and I slowly and methodically worked our way through the recording of the Opening Thoughts, Overview and Dilemma sections of the book, I was woefully reminded that the need to be grounded with integrity has become all the more important in our world of ever-increasing disruption. As I read each word out loud, thoughts on the essence of integrity once again began to stir within me.

Integrity won’t prevent disruption … it enables us to find adventure in the midst of it. Nor is integrity a calling card to justify our ingrained opinions and beliefs with an isolating sense of confidence. Rather, it enables us to peacefully listen to differing viewpoints grounded in the strength of vulnerability. And in our fast-moving world, it doesn’t seem that integrity is about establishing some solid grounding.

Integrity is about being sound wherever you are.

As I sat alone within the sound-proof walls of the recording studio today, it brought back a lot of memories of pouring-out and pouring-over the raw drafts of the manuscript of Return On Integrity. Today’s experience also allowed me to discover yet another definition of integrity. Except this time, it wasn’t my words. They were Charlie’s: sound check.

As I heard those two words through my headset throughout the day, I realized they pretty much wrap up the essence of integrity. We might be well-served to close our eyes a few times a day and let those two simple words wash over our mind, heart and soul.

NOTE: We are excited to release the audio version of Return On Integrity this June.

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Sticky Business Thu, 29 Mar 2018 11:00:26 +0000 Plastic bins can make for an efficient means of storage. Especially when you buy a number of them at the same time … all the same size and designed to nicely stack one on top of the other. I recently bought a lot of those bins. The containers have dark grey bottoms with bright yellow snap-on lids. You may have seen some of these at your local Costco or big box home improvement store.

I loaded and labeled each one of them. I knew their solid construction would protect the content packed inside and their stack-ability would make for an efficient use of space from floor to ceiling. And because they were all alike, I must say that our basement storage area looks better than ever.

It seemed like such a great idea … until the following week when I went down to retrieve an item from one of the bins.

Only to find the majority of my labels on the floor.

That is when their identical look went from an asset to a liability. Unstacking and opening several bins finally led me to the item I was looking for … and then sent me on the search for a better labeling option. After numerous failed attempts, I realized these bins had great stack-ability, yet little stick-ability! I was down, yet determined not to be defeated.

On a recent visit to our local office supply store, my eyes caught the word “Durable” on the packaging of some Avery 6793 labels … along with the picture of plastic bins on the front of the packaging. I decided to make one last attempt … and found victory. These labels have amazing stick-ability … and are such an asset on my storage bins!

Labels can also be a huge liability.

Especially when we apply them to people with Avery 6793 stick-ability. They can create a liability of not only generalizations, but also limitations. I was recently re-reading one of my favorite books, Awareness. It is a collection of stories told by the late Anthony DeMello throughout his years of giving retreats. Anthony nails the liability of labels:

“When you say of someone, ‘He’s a communist,’ understanding has stopped at that moment. You slapped a label on him. Or, ‘She’s a capitalist.’ Understanding has stopped at that moment. You slapped a label on her, and if the label carries undertones of approval or disapproval, so much the worse!” And then Anthony names the limitation: Because what you judge, you cannot understand.

Understanding stops.

And where understanding stops, limitations begin. It seems we go through a lot of labels, creating greater division and less understanding with most every label that sticks. Generations, occupations, race, country, religion, gender, preferences, and politics to name just a few.

Labels are concepts that fall short of understanding any one individual. And those same labels that we slap on others … and often slap on ourselves … can create blinders to the real content inside.

Anthony DeMello wonderfully continues in a later section of the book:

All you’ve got is a label. You really don’t know the person (or yourself). The concept always misses or omits something extremely important, something precious that is only found in reality, which is concrete uniqueness. The great Krishnamurti put it so well when he said, ‘The day when you teach the child the name of the bird, the child will never see that bird again.’ How true! The first time the child sees that fluffy, alive, moving object, and you say to him, ‘Sparrow,’ then tomorrow when the child sees another fluffy moving object similar to it he says, ‘Oh, sparrows. I’ve seen sparrows. I’m bored by sparrows.’”

It’s hard to begin to imagine the cost we incur with the labels we apply. Division, by nature, leads us to something less. At the same time, the efficiency of categories somehow creates a deceitful sense of accomplishment and even success.

All the while, blinding us to what we are missing.

A couple of years ago, as my daughter and her fiancé prepared for marriage, they decided to read books on the opposite gender. The same author had written a separate book on each gender. What made it helpful (and avoided a lot of misunderstanding) was that they first read the book on their own gender. They made notations throughout the book where the author’s point of view rang true and also noted where the author’s generalized comments were not true of them at all. They then switched books and were able to read the book on the opposite gender with much greater understanding.

As I work to help executives dig for their core values, I am well aware of the risk of simply creating more labels at their core. It is precisely why naming our core values is just the first step in getting to truly know those values as we live them.

Labels can sometimes be helpful … as long as you can easily peel them off to discover the uniqueness behind them. Paradoxically, in rediscovering and appreciating the individuality inside … we are likely to find far more unity.

It makes me want to keep my durable Avery 6793 labels for the bins in my basement, where they accurately describe the contents inside … and let all the rest of life’s labels fall to the floor.

How about you? What labels could you peel off … in how you see yourself and in how you see others? And in rediscovering individuality, see a whole lot more clearly. Please share your thoughts below!

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