Tuesday, May 8, 2012

"The Speed of Trust" Review

This is probably not a book I would have picked out on my own other than I've never really been disappointed with a Covey book (albeit all the others I have read have been by Stephen R. Covey whereas this one is authored by his son).  I won this at a training seminar and decided to give it a whirl.  Overall it is a worthwhile read, although it does get a bit repetitive and at times long winded.

In general, it is clear that this book is written by the son of the 7-Habits guru.  Many of the principles are the same but with different names and slightly different applications.  For this reason I struggled to really get into the book.  Having read most of Covey Sr.'s other works, I felt like I had already read this book.  However, the book does a good job at explaining how trust is established, how it can be damaged, how it can be repaired, and importantly, how it affects everything we do in our relationships.  Also, although the book is strongly oriented for a business audience, Covey takes the time to discuss how trust is critical in our family relationships as well.

One of the most beneficial sections of the book for me was Covey's discussion of corporate citizenship.  For me, this helped me clarify some of my own opinions about appropriate economic behavior.  Covey refers to the corporate scandals by Enron and WorldCom in 2002 that severely damaged the general trust in big business.  It was a revelation of how focused corporations had become on profit and how prevalent greed, fraud, and other low-trust behaviors had become.  Something I struggle with is how important business has become again during the slow economy.  In my work I constantly hear how important it is to be business friendly, create jobs, and do everything I can to help grow the economy.  I fine with all of that. But sometimes I ask myself why it is so important.  Why is the ability to make money so high on our priority list.  A quote in Covey's book from Tachi Kiuchi, former managing director for Mitsubishi Electronics.  He said:

People talk about businesses needing to be resopnsible as if it's something new we need to do on top of everything else.  But the whole essance of business should be responsibility.  My philosophy is "We don't run companies to earn profits, we eaern profits to run companies."  Our companies need meaning and purpose if they're to fit into the world, or why should they live at all?
What an important concept!  It's not just about money, it's about meaning.  Covey also points out that Adam Smith, the author of The Wealth of Nations and father of capitalism taught the importance of virtue in economics from the very beginning.

(Adam Smith) taught that "intentional virtue" was foundational to a prosperous economy, and that when a critical mass of people competed for their own best interests within the framework of intentinoal virtue, there was an "unseen hand" that would guide society in a way that would create prosperity and wealth for all.
During the alst part of the twentieth century, however, teh "intentional virtue" part somehow got left out, and the message was fatally diluted: "If you simply compete in the marketplace, the 'unseen hand' will guide the creation of wialth."  This dilution led to a massive violation of the 4 Cores and 13 Behaviors--to greed, materialism, fraud, falsification, duplicity, and skyrocketing low-trust taxes.
What this clarified for me is that business has responsibility too.  We don't have to bow to business just because they create wealth.  Just as a human being should give meaning to his/her life by being involved, contributing to society, "paying it forward," or however you choose to say it, business should have meaning as well.  On its own this helps establish trust and ease tension between business and the public.  

In the end, if you enjoy self-improvement books, organizational theory, or are looking for help in improving your credibility and strengthening your relationships, this is a worthwhile read.

Favorite quote from the book: "Rules cannot substitute for character."  Alan Greenspan

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Unbroken" Review

Another gap in my posts....A terrible thing happened.  My Nook broke.  I was in the middle of Unbroken and the screen cracked.  So I had to wait for the hard copy to come in at the library.  But I'm finished.  And, by the way, I do not intend to buy another Nook.  I'll hold out for an iPad.

Unbroken is possibly the best biography I have ever read.  It was truly inspiring.  How someone can dig so deep and survive events and situations so completely horrendous and demoralizing is unfathomable to me.  But Zamparini did.  I was also impressed with the power of religion and faith in Christ to turn one's life around.  As low as Zamparini had sunk, hope in the gospel pulled him back up from the depths of despair.  It saved his life.  

Finally, this book gave me a much deeper appreciation for veterans of all wars, especially those captured behind enemy lines.  They deal with more pain, trauma, and stress than most of us can even fathom, much less survive.

My favorite selection from the book:

"When the guards weren't venting their fury at the captives, the entertained themselves by humiliating them.  Every day, at gunpoint, Louie was forced to stand up and dance, staggering through the Charleston while his guards roared with laughter.  The guards made Louie whistle and sing, pelted him with fistfuls of gravel, taunted him as he crawled around his cell to pick up bits of rice, and slid long sticks through the door window so they could stab and swat him, finding his helpless contortions hilarious.  Down the hall, the guards did the same to Phil.  Sometimes Louie could hear Phil's voice, tiny and thin, groaning.  Once, driven to his breaking point by a guard dabbing him, Louie yanked the stick from the guard's hands.  He knew he might get killed for it, but under this unceasing degradation, something was happening to him.  His will to live, resilient through all of the trials on the raft, was beginning to fray. 

"The crash of Green Hornet had left Louie and Phil in the most desperate physical extremity, without food, water, or shelter.  But on Kwajalein, the guards sought to deprive them of something that had sustained them even as all else had been lost: dignity.  This self-respect and sense of self-worth, the innermost armament of the soul, lies at the heart of humanness; to be deprived of it is to be dehumanized, to be cleaved from, and cast below, mankind.  Men subjected to dehumanizing treatment experience profound wretchedness and loneliness and find that hope is almost impossible to retain.  Without dignity, identity is erased.  In its absence, men are defined not by themselves, buy by their captors and the circumstances in which they are forced to live.  one American airman, shot down and relentlessly debased by his Japanese captors, described the state of mind that his captivity created: 'I was literally becoming a lesser human being.'

"Few societies treasured dignity, and feared humiliation, as did the Japanese, for whom a loss of honor could merit suicide.  This is likely on of the reasons why Japanese soldiers in World War II debased their prisoners with such zeal, seeking to take from them that which was most painful and destructive to lose.  On Kwajalein, Louie and Phil learned a dark truth known to the doomed in Hitler's death camps, the slaves of the American South, and a hundred other generations of betrayed people.  Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen.  The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship can hold a man's soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it.  The loss of it can carry a man off as surely as thirst, hunger, exposure, and asphyxiation, and with greater cruelty.  In places like Kwajalein, degradation could be as lethal as a bullet." (pg 182-183)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Allegory of the Olive Tree

I teach gospel doctrine every Sunday.  Today's lesson was on Zenos' Allegory of the Olive Tree.  I came across the article (an excerpt from The Allegory of the Olive Tree).  The article adds some interesting insight to the allegory.  Here's the link.  http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=124&chapid=1466

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A second try....

It's been too long since I've posted.  I've been relying too much on goodreads.com to post my thoughts on books.  Let's try this again.
I'm currently reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  So far it's a page turner (which is unusual for a biography...).
What jumps out in the first few pages to me is the thought that you never know what will change someone.  Louie Zamperini was such a trouble maker as a child and was headed in a bad direction.  But a brother and a sport changed the direction of his life.  He found a passion.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I have finally finished Abraham in Egypt. I think if I can finish this monster, I can finish any book. I have a much deeper appreciation for the great patriarch. There is so much to learn from his life. I am also grateful for Joseph Smith. This book is further proof is his prophetic calling. The way the Book of Abraham fits into Egyptian history, other Abrahamic texts found after Joseph's translations, and history in general further witnesses to me that he is a prophet.
Great book. Challenging, but great.
Now...on to something a little more mindless for a while.

The Trial of Sarai

I'm not going to insert a specific quote on this post, but rather write some of my thoughts on a concept Nibley brings up regarding Abraham's wife Sarai.
In the story of Abraham and his wife traveling in Egypt, Pharaoh sees and desires Sarai. There are actually a few reasons for this besides her beauty, but you can read the book to learn more about that....Abraham is commanded by the Lord to tell Sarai to say she is his sister rather than her wife. Abraham, however does not command Sarai to say so, but rather requests, "I pray thee" in other words, "as a courtesy to me" to say she is his sister and because if she does so, "my soul shall live because of thee." The Genesis account tells us that Sarai did so and a great plague came upon Pharaoh's household. He realizes she is really Abraham's wife and the story is over.
However, according to other Abrahamic histories, there is more to the story to show this is really a trial of Sarai's faithfulness. Consider the two lives she now gets to choose from. She can stay with Abraham and the famines, warfare, and trials that continually seem to follow him. Or she can leave it all behind and become a queen in Egypt; the wife of the mighty Pharaoh. Will she remain faithful? Of course she does and hence the plague upon Pharaoh's household and the truth of her relationship to Abraham revealed.
I admire Sarai's courage and faithfulness. It seems sometimes in our world today we are always after the next best thing. We get bored with life as usual. We believe we owe ourselves more. We fail to be content with what we have. If given the opportunity, many of us would jump at the opportunity for money, power, and a life of ease. But not Sarai. She committed herself to Abraham and the Lord. Nothing could tear her from her covenants. Consider how much different our own world and our own homes would be if we were as committed to what we have. No need to daydream about what life would be like with another person or with more money or finer possessions. To be faithful. To be content. To be grateful. To love those around us. To love God. These are simple qualities that world does not preach to us but that would strengthen so much in our lives if we would but develop them. Next time we wonder how much better our lives could be if our situations changed, consider the example of Sarai, the model of a keeper of covenants.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Historicity of the Sacrifice of Abraham

Of course Nibley's book is to show Joseph Smith did not imagine the Book of Abraham, but in this quote he why it the account of the near sacrifice of Abraham does not appear in the Bible. To be fair to the skeptic it may seem odd that such a remarkable story is left out of the most basic book of the Christian faith. It is related to the principle discussed briefly in the previous post (Principles in the Sacrifice of Isaac) in that it was important for Abraham to pass his mantle to his son.

Abraham gets as much credit out of the sacrifice of Isaac as he does from his own adventure on the altar--he had already risked his own life countless times; how much dearer to him in his old age was the life of his only son and heir! And since the two sacrifices typify the same thing, nothing is lost to Abraham and much is gained for Isaac by omitting the earlier episode from the Bible. But that episode left an indelible mark in the record. The learned Egyptologist who in 1912 charged Joseph Smith with reading the sacrifice of Isaac into Facsimile 1 and the story of Abraham was apparently quite unaware that ancient Jewish writers of whom Joseph Smith knew nothing told the same story that he did about Abraham on the altar. The important thing for the student of the Book of Abraham is that the sacrifice of Abraham was remembered--and vividly recalled in non-biblical sources--as a historical event. This makes it almost certain that it was a real event, for nothing to the supreme glory of Abraham would do definite damage to Isaac's one claim to fame. If the binding on the altar...was to be the "unique glory of Isaac," it was entirely in order to quietly drop the earlier episode of Abraham that anticipates and overshadows it, just as it is right and proper to forget that the hero was once called Abram.