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America’s Great Firearms Hoax: Are You REALLY Safe?

August 28, 2016

Woman with gun

A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

Passed by Congress on September 25, 1789, and ratified on December 15, 1791, the Second Amendment has become increasingly an emotional—and divisive—issue for Americans. However, it took over two hundred years for it to reach an almost extraterrestrial intensity, as witnessed during President Obama’s two terms, during which the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the far right wing of the Republican Party voiced their shrill warnings that the federal government would seize their firearms. Gun sales have never been better.

The question on whether the Second Amendment protects the right of citizens to keep and bear arms, or whether it was intended by Congress to be exercised solely through a “militia,” namely established military units such as the National Guard, remains a hotly contested debate.

As explained in this law piece from Cornell University, there remains NO definitive conclusion on what the Second Amendment means specifically. That gun-loving Americans parrot the NRA’s refrain that citizens not only have the right to carry firearms but to possess those more appropriate in war zones or with police tactical units is a fraud perpetrated on an ignorant segment of American society.

Journalist Hannah Levintova observes in this prelude to an interview with Michael Waldman (The Second Amendment: A Biography), president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University:

As America grapples with a relentless tide of gun violence, pro-gun activists have come to rely on the Second Amendment as their trusty shield when faced with mass-shooting-induced criticism. In their interpretation, the amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms—a reading that was upheld by the Supreme Court in its 2008 ruling in District of Columbia. v. Heller.

Yet most judges and scholars who debated the clause’s awkwardly worded and oddly punctuated 27 words in the decades before Heller almost always arrived at the opposite conclusion, finding that the amendment protects gun ownership for purposes of military duty and collective security. It was drafted, after all, in the first years of post-colonial America, an era of scrappy citizen militias where the idea of a standing army—like that of the just-expelled British—evoked deep mistrust.

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The sheer lunacy of America’s infatuation with firearms ownership is manifested in countless ways. Check out this video Serving up the Second Amendment about a restaurant in Colorado where the female servers pack handguns on their hips (above photo). Ostensibly, the restaurant’s owner’s argument is that it keeps patrons safe and exercises the Second Amendment, which she incorrectly states is the basis on which the United States was founded. In reality, this is an intelligent marketing ploy, especially aimed at males: pretty gals packing six guns.

Let’s take a sober moment to reflect on a few firearm statistics:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2013 firearms were used in 73,505 nonfatal injuries (23.2 per 100,000 U.S. citizens); 11,208 deaths by homicide (3.5 per 100,000); 21,175 by suicide with a firearm; 505 deaths due to accidental discharge of a firearm; and 281 deaths due to firearms-use with “undetermined intent.” This adds up to 33,636 deaths due to “Injury by firearms”, or 10.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

Of interest, America’s neighbour to the north, with a population of about nine percent of the US, has a homicide rate seven times lower. The population of the United States is just over 315 million, yet an astounding 300 million weapons of various sorts are possessed by Americans. Contrast that to Canada and its seven million registered firearms (note the word “registered”). Extrapolating Canada’s population to its giant neighbour, you still only come up with a hypothetical 67 million firearms.

What about Down Under? Well, 20 years after Conservative Prime Minister John Howard spearheaded passage of legislation to ban assault weapons, there have not only been no mass shootings but firearm-related homicides and suicides have fallen sharply. Australia, in the 18 years leading up to 1996 when the legislation was passed, experienced 13 fatal mass shootings in which 104 victims were killed and 52 wounded.

Take a moment to read this illuminating article, Gun homicides in England are about as common as deaths from agricultural machinery accidents in the United States.

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In 2015, the National Gun Victims Action Council produced the report Does the Quality and Frequency of Training Determine the Realistic Use of Firearms by Citizens for Self-Defense? The Council was direct in its findings on the civilian use of firearms for the purpose of self-defense:

What we can say with certainty is that carrying a firearm in public has enormous implications and responsibilities for both citizens and police officers….Safe and effective firearms usage requires mental preparation, legal knowledge, judgmental awareness, as well as firearm expertise, skill, and familiarity….Legislators and public policy makers must stop denying the reality that carrying and possibly using a firearm is the same as riding a bike and that once
you learn you are ready for the Tour de France or the Olympics.

The bottom line is that it is sheer folly for a civilian, regardless of spending time on shooting ranges, to believe that he or she is capable of functioning properly in a high stress situation involving an active shooter. As human beings, our ingrained and involuntary fight or flight reaction to extreme stressful and traumatic events produces instant chemical changes in the brain.

Called tachypsychia, time slows down, tunnel vision occurs and colour blindness may appear. It’s not something that one easily overcomes. Special forces and police tactical units train constantly to ensure that they’re capable of responding effectively to stress. Civilians don’t have this training. When placed in simulated situations involving gunfire and having to separate perpetrators from innocent civilians, including returning fire at the assailant, time and time again civilians fail. Check out this video clip series on what happens when regular civilians react to situations involving firearms.

Yes, there have been a few instances of armed civilians intervening in situations where a shooter or armed perp was about to do harm to others. However, in the totality of crime and mass shootings in the United States, these cases are minuscule. Remember that many more innocent people, including children, are killed and maimed every year because of firearms in comparison to bad guys who get the Clint Eastwood treatment.

Generations of gun owners have taught their sons and daughters that it takes as much patience and skill to be a good shot as it does to be a good steward of a powerful weapon.
— Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords (former Arizona state representative, assassination attempt survivor and gun owner)

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The Tripod of Brand Differentiation

August 21, 2016

Light BulbsLast summer we decided to downsize our living accommodations, since we’ve been empty nesters for a few years. During the winter I decided it was time to get rid of all my stereo equipment, which was taking up too much space. I’d had some experience with Bose sound devices and after some further research decided to go with its new SoundTouch 30 system. At about 35 pounds, this compact system kicks out excellence sound, in keeping with Bose’s reputation.

Instead of ordering off their website, I decided to visit Bose’s downtown Ottawa store so that I could ask some questions. The sales experience at the Rideau Centre store was excellent. Because the store didn’t have the colour I wanted the sales rep arranged with one of their Toronto stores to ship it to my home. He also called Bose’s tech support so that I could inquire into connecting my turntable to the SoundTouch. A pre-amp was promptly sent to me, shipping fee waived.

The unit arrived within a few days, and it was a matter of a few minutes to get it connected to my Wifi. The sound quality proved what I expected. All was good.

Some five months after I’d been using the SoundTouch, I encountered a problem with the Bose app, which resides on both my iPhone and laptops. After repeated attempts to fix the problem I decided it was time to call Bose tech support.

Woman on Phone

I’ve dealt with a variety of tech support people over the years with many companies. Some were very good, but most were lackluster. And when it comes to customer service, it’s been mostly a miserable experience. The exception here, it should be noted, has been Apple Care, whose phone and live chat support is very good.

However, a new low was reached that day with Bose. It wasn’t that the tech support agent was rude; he wasn’t. The issue was that he didn’t know what he was doing. I had to wait half an hour on hold to have someone answer, and then another 30 minutes going through the motions with him. He didn’t seem to have any more of a clue than me how to fix the problem. I finally asked him why he hadn’t escalated it to a more senior tech, such as what Apple Care does. He said fine, disappeared for a few minutes and then reappeared. But in this case he merely passed on whatever the invisible senior tech person had said: send back the unit. Bose would send me another one once it had my receipt from UPS that it was in their possession. A slew of emails followed my transaction with tech support, including a shipping label.

I thought about my experience and the request from Bose. The next day, acting on intuition, I phoned the Bose Rideau Centre store and spoke to the manager. Very customer focused, he was shocked at how I’d been treated and the conclusion tech support had reached, namely returning the unit.

The manager then asked me a series of questions, and then walked me through some diagnostics. The solution to get the app to work took only a few minutes. The manager could not get over that tech support hadn’t asked me to go through the steps that he had me follow. When I expressed my view that this was one of the most incompetent tech experiences I’d ever had, the manager replied that Bose had recently outsourced its tech support. Well, that explains a lot. It was reminiscent of companies such as Dell and HP whose customer support, once very good, tanked when they took their eyes off the customer service ball.

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Bose, despite having superior products and (in my case) excellent customer sales, failed when it came to customer tech support. I completed the Bose customer tech service questionnaire that I received the next day. When I pressed the “Submit” button, an error message appeared (a few weeks later I received another automated survey to complete, which also failed to submit). On top of that, the day after my tech support call I emailed Bose to share my experience. It took three weeks to receive a reply from someone in customer service. I provided additional information and waited several days to receive a second response.

It took several more weeks to finally get some resolution with a senior tech on the phone. But it was a protracted and unnecessary experience.

There are three legs to brand differentiation: product quality, sales experience and follow-up service. When it comes to this tripod, Bose is missing one leg. In this instance, it doesn’t matter if you have exceptional products and great sales people if your customer service support sucks. This is how the reputations of companies rise and fall.

Indifference to customer feedback extends across industries. Witness my feedback to a popular natural foods store in Ottawa after my Bose experience. I thought I’d start shopping at Rainbow Foods, which has a wide selection of products. On my third trip to the store I attempted to engage an employee who appeared intent on tasking, ie, stocking shelves. She was in her sixties and one of the retail associates. She had little interest in helping me, so I gave up, put down the product I was holding and walked out of the store. I then sent some feedback to Rainbow Foods on their website. I never received a response. Indifference.

Tech Guy

Contrast this experience to a recent one, which proved illuminating. I purchased a manual coffee grinder from GSI Outdoors, a family-owned company (founded in San Diego and now based in Spokane, WA) specializing in outdoor camping equipment. I had trouble getting it to work so returned it to the outdoor retail store where I’d bought it. I then went on GSI’s website to share my experience with their product. Two days later I had a phone call from a very friendly fellow who apologized for my inconvenience. He then promised to mail me a free one, which arrived in five business days, just in time for our three week road trip. That’s how it’s done. Kudos to GSI Outdoors. And I’ll add that during our trip the grinder worked beautifully.

In the summer 2016 issue of Canadian Business Magazine, brand strategy consultant Bruce Philip offered some pointed insights on customer service in his column:

Customer experience—especially in Canada—is the most dismal and ignored corner of marketing. Poorly measured, conferring little corporate glory and mired in office politics, customers’ affection is taken for granted—or, worse, considered unimportant by too many companies…. The worst of it, most companies never find out they’re failing….yesterday’s hard-won customers just slip away.

The message here is when you’re competing in a tough, fast-changing marketplace it’s vital to be on your game. A company’s only as good as the three legs on which it stands and competes. If one leg is shaky, it places the company in a vulnerable position. Too many companies, large and small, have learnt this the hard way.

I hope that Bose gets it—soon. They make great sound products. The manager at the Rideau Centre store was one of the best sales people I’ve encountered. It must be hugely frustrating for capable people such as him to hear from customers with easy-to -solve problems but who ran into the wall of weak tech support service. Take a cue from GSI Outdoors on how to practice excellent customer service.

If you’re part of an organization that prides itself on producing superior products, whether it’s furnaces, artisan roasted coffee beans or furniture, and that believes in providing great sales experiences, then don’t park customer followup service in the back seat. It belongs in the front seat. Ensure that the tripod of brand differentiation is rock solid. Each leg supports the other.

Keeping the tripod balanced is the challenge for corporate leadership.

As a consumer, you want to associate with brands whose powerful presence creates a halo effect that rubs off on you.   
— Tom Peters

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Wisdom from a Curious World Traveller—Meet Derek Sivers

August 14, 2016

Derek 1

One of my favourite bloggers is Derek Sivers. I discovered Derek online several years ago, and was impressed with his love for learning and for sharing with others. His eclectic background is fascinating, as is his humbleness. In the past, he’s been an entrepreneur, programmer, circus clown, author, plus much more. A few years ago he wrote a wonderful, compact book called Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur. It’s excellent; be sure to check it out.

Recently, Derek shared three short posts with his followership. I enjoyed them so much I asked his permission to share them with my readership. These three posts have gems of insight for leaders of all stripes. I encourage you to reflect on them and to also follow Derek’s life journey via his blog.

And if you haven’t seen Derek’s narrated video First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy”, viewed over four millions times, then take a moment to watch it.


Keep Earning your Title, or it Expires

Derek 2

Until yesterday, I called myself an entrepreneur. Today I erased it from the top of every page on my site.

It’s been years since I started a company, so I can’t keep using that title.

Someone who played football in high school can’t call himself an athlete forever. Someone who did something successful long ago can’t keep calling himself a success.

You have to keep earning it.

Holding on to an old title gives you satisfaction without action. But success comes from doing, not declaring.

By using a title without still doing the work, you fool yourself into thinking future success is assured. (“This is who I am!”) That premature sense of satisfaction can keep you from doing the hard work necessary.

Stop fooling yourself. Be honest about what’s past and what’s present. Expiring old titles lets you admit what you’re really doing now.

And if you don’t like the idea of losing your title, then do something about it! This goes for titles like “good friend”, “leader”, or “risk-taker”, too.

I updated my home page to reflect what accomplishments are in the past. It’s liberating to speak in past-tense about what’s passed, and only speak in present-tense about what’s actually present.

I do plan to start another company some day. And when I do, I will have earned the “entrepreneur” title again.




Someone asked what I remember as the best times of my life.

They’re almost all times when I was being the most productive — when I was creating the most.

Turning my ideas into reality is what I want the most out of life. So that’s what gives me the deepest happiness.

Then I realized that all the best, happiest, and most productive times in my life, were when I was completely cut-off.

No internet. No TV. No phone. No people.

Long uninterrupted solitude.

When I was 22, I quit my job, and spent five months alone in a house on the Oregon coast. Practicing, writing, recording, exercising, studying, learning. No internet. No TV. No phone. No people. I only drove into the city once a month to see friends and family. The rest was completely disconnected.

In those five months, I wrote and recorded over 50 songs, made huge improvements in my instrumental skills, read 20 books (some of which changed my life), lost 20 pounds, and got into the best physical shape of my life. Not only that, but I was the happiest I’d ever been.

When I was 27, I moved to the woods of Woodstock and did that again. Months and months of lovely solitude. That’s how I started CD Baby.

It’s not that I hate people. The other best times in my life were with people. But it’s interesting how many highlights were just sitting in a room, in that wonderful creative flow. Free from the chatter of the world.

No updates. No news. No pings. No chats. No meetings. No surfing. No blogs.

Silence is a great canvas for your thoughts.

That vacuum helps turn all your inputs into output.

That lack of interruption is a great ingredient for flow.

Every business wants to get you addicted to their infinite updates, pings, chats, messages, and news. But if what you want out of life is to create, then those things are the first to go.

People often ask me what they can do to be more successful.

I say disconnect. Unplug. Turn off your phone and wifi. Focus. Write. Practice. Create.

That’s what’s rare and valuable these days.

You get no competitive edge from consuming the same stuff everyone else is consuming. But it’s rare to focus. And it gives such better rewards.


Derek 3I’ve been feeling extremely un-motivated lately. I don’t know why. I look at things that excited me just a few months ago, and I think, “Why bother? What’s the point?” I don’t feel like doing anything.

What do you do when you don’t want to do anything?

Well, I also have a list of things that I should do, things that really need doing, but I never feel like it.

Boring things. Necessary things. Things I’ve been putting off for years, but really do need to get done. The reason I never do them is I’m always more excited about something else.

Ah, but I’m not excited about anything now, am I?

So now, when I’m not excited about anything else, is a perfect time to do them!

So I made a list of these necessary things, and have been getting them all done. It’s not fun, but I use some caffeine, and get through it. It actually feels pretty good.

Conventional wisdom tells us to do the important and difficult thing first, but doing this boring work has moved me from a state of doing nothing to doing something. I’m just starting to feel like doing something important again.

So next time you’re feeling extremely un-motivated, do those things you never want to do anyway.


A work-only zone does wonders for your productivity. So, I prefer working at the office now. I spend 8 focused hours there, then I go home to be present with my family.
— Derek Sivers

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Donald Trump’s Dystopian America: The ROAD Revisited

August 7, 2016


The Western World has awakened to the stunning realization that what started out as a self-promotional campaign, with no clarity as to strategy, has confounded all the experts and pseudo intelligentsia. That Donald J. Trump, a bigoted, misogynistic and serial philanderer, would rise to the lead the Republican Party into the November 8, 2016, Presidential election is akin to a very bad B movie that never made it into the theatres. Too far-fetched and too stupid, unless someone like Seth Rogen were able to make it into a comedy. But then his comedy flick about Kim Jong-il, to put it in the vernacular, totally sucked.

Late night comedians, from Stephen Colbert to Larry Wilmore, to Samantha Bee to Trevor Noah, excel in ripping Trump a new one every evening. He’s the low hanging fruit. How can one not make Donald Trump look, pardon the language, like a incompetent asshole. It’s kindergarten work. And at some point we’ll start either zoning out or, if it looks like he could beat Hillary Clinton on November 8th, run for cover. Perhaps we’ll see a new breed of entrepreneurs who capitalize on building and selling bomb shelters for families, reminiscent of the sixties. “Okay children, everyone hide under their desks when you hear the sirens. President Trump got hold of the nuclear football.” Sorry Gens X and Y, you missed out on that scary segment of American (and Canadian) life.

More seriously, however, is the potential reality that a Trump presidency would likely entail a period of unpredictability and instability, from economic trade to race relations to geo-political tensions with rogue dictatorships (eg, Iran and North Korea) and unstable states (eg, Pakistan and Russia).

Consider Trump’s gushing comments earlier in the year about Kim Jong-il, who he recently called a “genius:”

“You’ve got to give him credit,” Mr Trump said. “How many young guys — he was like 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden — you know, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it. How does he do that?

“Even though it is a culture, and it’s a cultural thing, he goes in, he takes over, he’s the boss. It’s incredible.

“He wiped out the uncle, he wiped out this one, that one. This guy doesn’t play games and we can’t play games with him. Because he really does have missiles and he really does have nukes.”

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Unfortunately, when it comes to the high risk outcomes of geo-political instability most of society is essentially clueless. We’ve become numb to Hollywood’s versions of calamities caused by alien invasions, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and nuclear war. We think of Mel Gibson in Mad Max, and its crappy sequels, in which a monosyllabic muscle man kicks ass. Or consider the disaster movies you’ve seen. Make a list.

But once in a while a film, based on a novel, comes along that conveys such a painful portray of a post-apocalyptic world that it propels one to sit up and consider the consequences of how weak, feckless national leadership can take a country to ruin very quickly. I first read The Road, an extremely bleak portrayal of a post-nuclear war world, in which survivors scavenge for food and cope with gangs of thugs. Don’t read it if you’re feeling down. However, it’s a reality check on the Hollywood-tainted views of how society copes after major disasters. The film, featuring Viggo Mortensen, is just as bleak. Indeed, most of the movie was shot in abandoned urban areas of Pennsylvania.

As much as some Americans, and Canadians and other nationalities, thought of President Ronald Reagan as a war monger nothing could be further from the truth. He turned out to be a president who, being repulsed from nuclear weapons, worked tirelessly with his Soviet counterpart President Mikhail Gorbachev to drastically reduce the nuclear arsenals of both countries. Read this post to learn more about Reagan’s efforts, as well as the tensions of the time.

Mad Trump

As I talked about in a recent post, effective leaders create a positive vision of the future. They enrol and align followers (whether in a community, organization or nation) to work collectively towards that vision. These REAL leaders do no harm; they aim to overcome prejudices, bigotry, racism and economic inequality. They are about UNITY.

These characteristics are anathema to Donald Trump. He doesn’t understand them and has no interest in self-enlightenment, for he believes he knows it all. His make-it-up-as-you-go campaign is about service to self, NOT service to country. Remember President John F. Kennedy’s powerful words at his inaugural address on January 20th, 1961: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Donald J. Trump doesn’t have a clue about leading a nation, and especially about leading by example when it comes to service to country. The world certainly does not need the increased likelihood of The Road, but not the movie version, occurring because a volatile, megalomaniac reality show producer somehow got elected to lead the world’s most powerful country.

While the world watches in fascination—and revulsion—as the run-up to the 2016 Presidential election unfolds, seven billion people can only hope and pray that Americans will do the right thing on November 8th.

If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?
— Donald J. Trump (Twitter, 2015 – later deleted)

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Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump: Polar Opposites as Leaders

August 1, 2016

BernieLeadership is an odd beast. We tend to perceive it as a charismatic endeavour, where historically males have held “leadership” roles, from Genghis Khan’s Mongol empire in the late 1100s to Abraham Lincoln in the 1860s to General Electric’s Jack Welch during the 1980-90s.Trump

But there have been notable women leaders, fortunately rising in numbers during the 20th Century: Great Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, India’s Indira Gandhi, and Hewlitt Packard’s Meg Whitman.

At its core, leadership is about creating a vision that captures the hearts and minds of people, enrolling them to be part of a collective future. While some would argue that Hitler, Mao and Stalin were leaders, one distinguishing difference within the leadership arena is what could be called do no harm. For example, Adolph Hitler certainly had a followership within a segment of Germany’s population. However, he didn’t just seek to make Germany great again (to borrow from Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign) but more pertinently aimed to wipe out Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies and anyone else that didn’t fit with his vision of an ethnically pure country—an Aryan race.

Leadership, therefore, may simply be described as doing good for a cause, a community, an organization, or a nation. And it’s achieved through bringing together people, aligning them towards a common future, and motivating them to stay on course.


Enter the 2016 Republican and Democratic Primaries in the United States. Not only Americans but the entire civilized world has been subjected to the spectacle of a megalomaniac businessman and reality show star upending the Republican Party to beat out some initial 20 contenders for the party’s nomination for the national election in November. On the Democratic Party front, no such competitive process occurred, quickly narrowing down to a Brooklyn-born, muppet-like 72 year-old man taking on the first woman to run for national office.

The problem with Hillary Clinton is that she has brought a huge amount of baggage to the party. Indeed, while Clinton’s nomination was made official on July 26th, raising justifiable cheers from women that the presidential glass ceiling has finally been broken (or almost), she is in a very vulnerable position, given her contentious history dating back to the late eighties and nineties and extending to the present. Add to this the revelations in late July that the Democratic National Party (DNC) had tried to sink Bernie Sanders’ grass roots campaign. This raises more questions about the establishment, of which Clinton is an esteemed member, and the incredible lack of judgement and leadership shown by those in positions of power in the DNC.

Unfortunately, the manipulations and deceit perpetrated by the DNC have only added to Donald Trump’s anti-Clinton arsenal. There has probably never been a time in American political history where one of the two contenders for the presidency has used such a dark tone with the electorate—and with stunning effect. Trump’s make-it-up-as-you-go campaign from the start has been based on fuelling hate, fear and divisiveness in America. His campaign has turned out to be the most stupendous reality show ever produced in the United States, a dystopian Trump world that would astonish aliens from distant, galactic civilizations.

Mad Trump 2

Donald J. Trump, a 70 year-old man, has never read a biography of a U.S. president. This is a stunning revelation. That someone would seek the highest office in the United States, the most powerful country in the world, and not be familiar with both U.S. history and especially presidential history is pause for extreme concern among American voters. Throw in Trump’s pronouncement that he doesn’t need policy advice since he knows it all adds further fear to the mix.

Take a moment to reflect on this:

Real leaders do not engage in or support the use of fear tactics to enrol followers; they do not preach dividing a citizenry; and they do not paint a dark picture of the future.

You couldn’t have a greater contrast between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Both have loyal followers, many of whom have not participated in the voting system in the past. They believe that they’ve been left on the side of the road as America’s economy has become increasingly characterized by winners and losers, with a growing gap between the small percentage of very wealthy people and a shrinking middle class. The destitute poor and working poor, who traditionally have low voting turnouts, continue to live in conditions found in the poorest developing countries. Indeed, it’s not as much about the One Percent (attributed to economist Josept Stigliltz) but instead the 20 individuals who own as much wealth as the bottom half of America’s 315 million population.

But the natures of their respective followerships are vastly different. Bernie Sanders is driven by social and economic justice reform. His campaign was about hope and change. “A future to believe in,” Sanders’ tagline, has been embraced enthusiastically by his followers, represented by a strong contingent of Generation Y. These younger people face a tough job market due to technology, the outsourcing of jobs to other countries, and the end of the traditional employment contract (employers and employees had reciprocal loyalties for fulltime, permanent work).

Defined benefit pension plans have largely disappeared (except in the public sector), while defined contribution plans have become the norm — provided one has secure employment. Indeed, expect millions of Americans to head into retirement in the coming years without any pension savings.


Only a few days before I wrote this leadership post I returned from a three week road trip with my wife to Canada’s East Coast. The last leg on the way home was two nights in New Hampshire and Vermont, home of Senator Bernie Sanders. We visited for a second time the gorgeous state legislative building in Montpelier. In both the congressional room and in a large room used for receptions with a huge Civil War mural, I noticed a crest. It read: “Freedom and Unity.” I asked our tour guide if that was Vermont’s motto. He replied yes, to which I replied, it was more mature and meaningful than New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die.”

Freedom and Unity, in my mind, is what Bernie Sanders strove so hard to achieve. And indeed his campaign—movement—has had a very strong influence on the Democratic Party’s policy platform. The Party has benefitted hugely from Sanders’ leadership and relentless effort to address the country’s shrinking middle class, disenfranchised youth and minorities, rustbelt communities, and healthcare coverage gaps.

If Trump’s dark-storms-ahead campaign is purportedly true, why did Canadians jettison a prime minister, Stephen Harper, who had no vision for the country, save for creating a barbaric cultural practices hotline to rat out supposed questionable new Canadians (aka Muslims)? Justin Trudeau, albeit still relatively new to politics though a fast learner, used his “Sunny Ways” tagline to capture the hearts and minds of Canadians. While still early on in his mandate it seems to be working.

This is what real, effective leaders do: they create a positive vision of the future and enrol citizens or employees to work towards it. Unfortunately, in the United States millions of Americans feel alienated. Their Congressional representatives have extremely low approval ratings. The growing gap between the top one percent and the rest of the country is extremely warped. Corporations show no loyalty to national borders. CEO salaries are proportionately out of step with historical ratios to worker wages.

The last comment goes to Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stieglitz, who powerfully expresses the juncture at which the United States has arrived. This is now one of those moments in U.S. history where visionary leadership which enrols all Americans is so desperately needed.

“There are two visions of America a half century from now. One is of a society more divided between the haves and the have-nots, a country in which the rich live in gated communities, send their children to expensive schools, and have access to first-rate medical care. Meanwhile, the rest live in a world marked by insecurity, at best mediocre education, and in effect rationed health care―they hope and pray they don’t get seriously sick.

At the bottom are millions of young people alienated and without hope. I have seen that picture in many developing countries; economists have given it a name, a dual economy, two societies living side by side, but hardly knowing each other, hardly imagining what life is like for the other. Whether we will fall to the depths of some countries, where the gates grow higher and the societies split farther and farther apart, I do not know.

It is, however, the nightmare towards which we are slowly marching.”

― Joseph E. Stiglitz (from The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future)

Holisti LeadershipClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader, 3rd Edition.

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Nurturing: Deepening the Essence of Holistic Leadership

July 25, 2016

If you haven’t already, be sure to download the third edition of my e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader: Strategies for Successful Leadership using a Principle-Based Approach. This post looks at Nuturing as one of the four components of Holistic Leadership.

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The ability to nurture is an important part of leadership, yet it’s only beginning to receive the attention it deserves. To become a Holistic Leadership, however, Nurturing is absolutely essential. Its five enabling elements are tightly interwoven:

  • Empathy
  • Communication
  • Diversity
  • Bonds
  • Wellness

Unfortunately the idea of leaders, whether male or female, embracing a nurturing mindset is alien to many people. It’s a female role, not a male one, many would argue. But is it in reality?

It’s time to get over old, worn-out stereotypes of authoritarian leadership, where people are told what to do, how to think and how to act. This has no place in 21st Century organizations, not with the rapidity of change. People can’t be forced to be creative or to innovate.

Some people would call Nurturing, as part of Holistic Leadership, the really soft stuff. Because it’s strongly oriented around relationships and the human dimension, Nurturing is not easily quantifiable. Moreover, it’s an area that hasn’t traditionally been part of the heroic leadership mindset, historically dominated by males.

The ability to show empathy is vital to enhancing our leadership. To be empathetic means to be able to put oneself in another’s shoes, or frame of reference. The late Stephen Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, spoke of the habit of Seek first to understand, then be understood. This is a difficult habit to learn because it requires us to listen carefully to the other person and to really understand their point of view, all the while refraining from speaking ourselves. If we wish to be understood, we must first understand from where the other person in coming.

Nuture 2.jpg

Improving our ability to empathize will in turn enhance our communication skills. Creating meaningful conversations is essential if organizations are to enhance their collective ability to learn. But the challenge to this is the diversity that’s growing in organizations. The Holistic Leader is able to see the value in diverse needs, wants, beliefs, expectations, personalities, backgrounds, gender, color and age. Being able to see from a systems perspective the benefits that diversity brings to an organization, and in turn influencing it in a forward-thinking way, is a strong leadership asset.

This leads to the creation of bonds within the organization. The Holistic Leader has contributed to creating a web of relationships, despite the challenge of addressing diversity in an organization that faces unrelenting change. These bonds, in turn, support collaborative learning and the creation of a learning culture.

The Holistic Leader understands and pays attention to the need for developing the triangle of spirit, mind, and body. Without daily practice of these three equally important parts, it’s difficult to achieve and maintain a high state of personal wellness. As with personal mastery, personal wellness starts from within. But the Holistic Leader also strives to help her co-workers (and followers) increase their awareness of this important element of nurturing leadership. For example, the network leader sows “wellness seeds” in the organization as a way to assist the organization create a healthier workplace: spiritually, intellectually, and physically.

The following two leadership vignettes provide contrasting examples of Nurturing Holistic Leadership.


Sounds into Syllables

Leadership resides at all levels of organizations and communities, and is not specific to certain age groups. Many young people, including teenagers, have done exceptional things for their communities and society. Kayla Cornale received a Gold Medal for Health Sciences at the 2006 Canada Wide Science Fair. At the time Kayla was a grade 11 student in Burlington, Ontario. Her project was entitled Sounds into Syllables: Windows to the World of Childhood Autism.

As a high school student Kayla wanted to have a closer relationship with her cousin, Lorena. However, due to Lorena’s autism this proved very difficult. As she watched Lorena memorize songs, something she excelled at, Kayla got the idea to use the piano as the medium for communication. By assigning letters of the alphabet to the middle keys in the form of chords, Kayla then connected them to language. The result was a trademarked patent viewed as a major breakthrough in autism research.

Kayla’s Sounds into Syllables method was used in a number of school districts around the Province of Ontario starting in 2004. Winning over 50 awards world-wide, Kayla represented Canada at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2005 and 2006, placing 1st in the world in the category of behavioral and social sciences.

Kayla was later recognized by CNN’s Heroes’ Award in November 2007. Indeed, she was the only Canadian finalist among 7,000 people nominated by viewers in 80 countries, and one of the three finalists in the Young Wonders category for people under 18. She received a scholarship to Stanford University in California, graduating in 2011 with a BA and a Masters of Linguistics in 2012.

from BBS upload

The Peacemaker

Captain Nichola Goddard was the first female Canadian soldier to be killed in combat since the Second World War. Her death occurred on May 17, 2006 during a brutal firefight with the Taliban in the Panjwaye District in Afghanistan. Goddard’s role as crew commander was to call in artillery fire. This meant being in a forward position during the battle and physically exposing herself. A rocket propelled grenade fired by the Taliban struck her LAV vehicle, exploding on impact and killing her instantly.

Her husband received on Goddard’s behalf the Memorial Cross (also known as the Silver Cross).

A strong student and member of the debating club, Captain Goddard received a scholarship to attend Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. Despite her fondness for the military, she was also deeply interested in humanitarian issues and how to bring about peace in areas of conflict. Because of imperfect vision she wasn’t able to join the Air Force and chose the Army instead. Her strong math skills lead her to specialize in artillery.

Captain Goddard was highly regarded by her peers, and remembered for her vivaciousness, kindness and listening skills. Serving her country was more than just about being a soldier and learning technical skills, but about leadership and how to make the world a better place.

The gateways to wisdom and knowledge are always open. (Louise Hay)

Holisti LeadershipClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader, 3rd Edition.

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How To Create a Positive Work Environment To Boost Customer Relations

July 18, 2016

People Slapping Hands

I’m pleased to host a guest post with Brooke Cade, a freelance writer who’s committed to helping businesses and sales professionals build stronger connections with their customers. In her spare time, she enjoys learning more about inmoment, her CX platform of choice, reading books and articles on industry news, engaging on twitter, and exploring her local neighborhood coffee shop.

We’ve all heard the saying, “it’s what’s on the inside that counts.” This statement couldn’t be truer when it comes to your business: the more transparent you can be, the better.

To create a successful business, it all begins on the inside with your employees. Employees who work in a positive environment feel more valued and appreciated by their company, and are more inclined to work harder in order to strengthen customer relationships and provide superior customer service.

Value Their Opinions

One of the most important things you can do as a business owner is to actively listen to your employees. When employees know that their voices are being heard and their opinion is valued, they feel empowered. This empowerment will lead to better relationships within the company culture and come through interactions between employees and customers.

Because employees are the face of your company and the people your customers are dealing with on a daily basis, it is critical that invest time and resources in your employees to ensure that your employees have the tools to succeed and can serve your customers in a positive and professional manner. As you look to implement new programs and strategies to improve company culture, take some time to gather both employee and customer feedback to see which areas you’re excelling at and where you can improve on.

Let Your Employees Know They Matter

Investing in your employees’ future is another excellent way to let them know they are valued. Pay for employees to attend conferences, hold employee appreciation events, and help them continue to learn and grow so they can promote within your company. Some fun ways to do this? Encourage employees to set personal and professional goals each quarter, set up team building activities to help employees get to know each other better and feel more connected, or hold team training where someone from each team teaches everyone else something new. The list is endless, but the key is to provide a positive workplace environment where everyone feels supported and can continue to grow.

Create a Positive Company Culture

Young People2

The best way to build up your company from within is to establish employee engagement by creating a positive company culture. No one likes working in an environment where they’re constantly criticized or in fear. Take time each day to make sure the culture you’re cultivating is a positive one where employees are happy and everyone feels valued.

When your employees are happy, this happiness not only carries over into their work as they interact with customers, but continues in their personal lives. Cheerful employees will naturally attract other excellent people who want to be a part of such a great work environment, allowing you to have higher caliber candidates applying who will be happy to join your team and help build your business.

It’s All Up to You

As the owner, you set the tone for your business. You can create a working environment where your employees feel comfortable, confident, and happy to be there, or you can do the complete opposite. When you choose the former, you will be able to build a company that’s strong from the inside out, ultimately resulting in a successful and thriving business.

The signs of outstanding leadership appear primarily among the followers. Are the followers reaching their potential? Are they learning? Serving? Do they achieve the required results? Do they change with grace? Manage conflict?
— Max De Pree (Ret’d CEO, Herman Miller; Author of leadership books)

Holisti LeadershipClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader, 3rd Edition.

Bay St. Lawrence BLOGVisit Jim’s e-Books, Resources and Services pages.

Contact Jim for information on his Holistic Leadership Workshop

Take a moment to meet Jim.