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