Government includes the art of formulating and using the political technique to attain so much of them as will receive general support; persuading, leading, sacrificing, teaching always, because perhaps the greatest duty of statesmanship is to educate.
(Looking Forward, Franklin D. Roosevelt)
Over the course of 1933 and 1944, the US President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, gave thirty radio speeches, which a journalist at that time called, “fireside chats”. Back then was a very difficult period, at the peak of the crisis following the stockmarket crash of 1929, in the Great Depression and with the world at war.
Reading these radio speeches from the thirties today, addressed to the citizens of a nation knocked to its knees by the great crisis following the Wall Street collapse – citizens Roosevelt called “my friends” – they appear in all their power as “archetypes” (or ideal types) of political communication. Everything is in them that is in keeping with a formula sagely combining the simplicity of words (selected exceedingly carefully, quite unlike the linguistic sloppiness of certain sad politics of our day…), moral tension, individual responsibility, calls to a collective cause and appeals to American tradition (essential in refuting right-wing attacks accusing the New Deal of being a close relative of socialist planning and therefore un-American). Most importantly, those speeches were a cocktail that managed to drag the United States out of the vortex of the recession and which showed, indisputably, the extent of the both charismatic and mediatic influence of ‘Rooseveltism’. (Turn the Radio on for the President is Speaking – Massimiliano Panarari – lastampa.it del 27/4/2011)
Today’s post was inspired by those “fireside chats” or, to be more exact and given the approach of the year’s end, by some pertinent matters and an attempt to create with you friends/readers, a moment of serene contemplation, as though were really sat together before a fireplace. Naturally, without attempts at comparisons to Roosevelt, instead, we have quite simply a focal, starting point around which to aggregate our wish to create a kind of “virtual conversation” with you.
Cast a glance at the many books and blogs on how to write posts and you will see that they suggest keeping them short, with summary lists perhaps (the ubiquitous 5 or 10 key points…) for easier reading.
I prefer not to bide by these wise words of advice and instead choose differently and less “commercially” to write posts that can resemble a speech. I run the risk of losing some readers who do not like reading and perhaps prefer the content style of Facebook and the like. My intention is for these lines I write to stimulate thought.
I have clarified this point in case any readers have ever wondered as to the reason for my unusually lengthy posts, wishing for an explanation as to why my blog entries are rarely short. In the era of fast consumption, interconnection and multitasking, I enjoy the idea of giving back the mind its time and its rhythms.
But let us return to our virtual fireplace.
Our times are also troubled times, from many perspectives.
A range of complex problems await effective responses: from immigration and economic stagnation to the concept of Europe as now blurred by the many bureaucrats in Brussels and at the mercy of the German decision-making; from the problem of terrorism and the environment to policy-making increasingly detached from the general public; from unsustainable levels of taxation in Italy to a shattering that seems to have pervaded societies, customs and relationships, to name a few.
Everywhere you look there is something not working as it should. What are we to do, then? We could decide to do absolutely nothing or to despair or to live a “liquid” life. Or fall into depression. I would never suggest any of those things.
I will, for now, tell you a little secret. I wrote a brief sentence down from an unknown source onto my cellphone that I read every now and then to get my spirits up: “The world has always been falling apart, so relax …”.
So, the first thing to do is relax.
There is in actual fact nothing new under the sun.
When placed into perspective, the many problems of today are no more serious or difficult than those mankind has always had to face.
To give up doing, thinking and learning would be an unconditional surrender on all fronts, which would fail to take a certain fact into consideration: the ability that human beings have always shown of being able to change things.
As a species we have been changing things for thousands of years and, one might say, with some success even. Today, we certainly live better, despite the many inconsistencies of two or three generations ago.
Do not believe everything you think!
(…) According to some estimates, it appears the average adult has about sixty thousand distinct thoughts every twenty-four hours. Even more astounding is the fact that today we are turning over the same sixty thousand thoughts of yesterday and that these same thoughts will arise in us again tomorrow. Thus, many of us live our daily lives according to a habital scheme of things, persisting in an incessant repetition of thoughts.
Now, let me throw more fuel on the fire. Many of the notions perpetually reiterated, especially those which fall under the category of excuses, are in all probability false. Subsequently, we are using our incredibly brilliant minds to process false thoughts every day, without knowing it. The question “Is it true?” should be the first challenge to this repetitive, habitual and unconscious activity of producing excuses.
(No excuses! – Wayne W. Dyer)
Each of us has their own arena (or more than one) in which we may choose to fight. Mine is the business and organizational.
With the help of my team, I help organizations, leaders and people plan their futures. This is our way of making a contribution and of rendering the sentence which always wraps up my thoughts in my blogs operational: ‘Design a better world.’
We are used to apologies. We hear so many every day. Anyone who thinks people are not creative should have a listen, very carefully sometimes, to the reasons each of us find when concocting excuses for not doing, not changing. Such reasons are demonstrative of the unlimited creativity of the entrepreneur, the manager, of every single employee.
Of course, I must comment here on the field most congenial to me, that of organizations and the world of business. Here the ability to invent excuses reaches sublime and unparalleled heights. How much wasted effort discussing why things can not be done! How many excuses not to change: “We haven’t got time”, “It is difficult”, “It’s not in the budget”, “We can’t do it” and so on, inventing.
If, instead, we were honest with ourselves, we would admit to “We don’t know how”, “We do not want to”, that “We are not interested.” Quite a different kettle of fish altogether.
I recently wrote about the paralysis and inability to change which afflicts many organizations, including many Italian companies who may well be turning over interesting numbers, but which have an ‘excuses virus’ within, working underground. This virus will sooner or later unleash devastating results.
You have now been warned and will not be able to say “I did not know” (another excuse from the hit parade!).
Friend/Reader, kindly pardon my foray into the business world, but I could not resist such a tantalizing opportunity!
When people talk about change, although I would by now use the word revolution! – a famous song by Gino Paoli, Four Friends at the Bar, springs to mind:
We were four friends in a bar
who wanted to change the world
destined for something more
than a woman and a job in a bank.
We spoke at length of anarchy and freedom
over glasses of coke and coffees.
Pulling out whys and coming up with I wills.
Then the friends became three and they pulled out their “whys” and came up with “howevers.” Then just two friends are left, this time with “whys” and “I’ll bes.” Finally, only one friend remains:
I am alone in the bar
the others are all at home.
And today at around 3, four kids came in
Sitting there near me they were, with two cokes and two coffees.
I heard them chat about how they’ve decided to change
this whole, wrong world.
And so the situation repeats and nothing happens. A brilliant musical representation of the power of excuses. We are very adept at finding a host of reasons not to do things. We have an extraordinary ability to “rationalize” (rationalization being a procedure by which a person attempts to find a logically coherent and morally acceptable excuse for a feeling, action, mode of conduct, ritual or symptom for which we do not want to discern our deepest motivations).
Many decades ago a young girl wrote:
How wonderful it is that none of us is obliged to wait even a second before starting to improve the world.
That courageous girl was Anne Frank.
We should not delay improving the world by even one instant! Not delaying is the most effective antidote that I know of for defeating all excuses (and rationalizations).
2016 is drawing to a close. Instead of compiling the same old list of good intentions, which then inevitably ends up in a drawer somewhere or relegated to the domain of “wishful thinking”, it might be interesting to cast an objective eye over the excuses we have produced over the course of the year and to decide to change something and start improving the world.
From a grain of rice that falls into the ground, 24 plants are born which then become 24 ears of rice. Twenty-four ears of rice produce approximately 300 grains. In other words, a grain of rice in Fall will produce 7,200 grains. And then, how many more grains do you think those 7,200 will become the following year? 58,140,000. One grain of rice, over two autumnal seasons, can become 58,140,000.
One small step opens the way to a long walk.
This is life.
(The Buddhist hymn to life – Kotaro Hisui)
Heartfelt best wishes to your taking that first step and abandoning excuses!
To you all, to your families and co-workers, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
We shall of course meet again in January for many new things.
Happy Holidays all and … Design a better world!
Massimo and the Heiko Xplore team.