Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Reflections on West Lake Tahoe

Today, after living in Northern California for more than 50 years, I more fully appreciated the unadulterated beauty of Lake Tahoe. I may have landed here at the perfect time, late April, and best location, Tahoma, on the West Shore.

After clearing what feels like the last major hurdle on my autobiography – completely a good first draft on the final, most important chapter, “Reflections,” in which I acknowledge my mistakes, share my conclusions about key points in my worldview, and look forward to the future – I decided to celebrate by firing up one of the Dominican cigars I brought with me and stroll to the pier across from the post office.

Sitting on a bench at the end of the pier in the sun without a cloud in the sky with the temperature at a comfortably 54 degrees, intoxicated a bit by the tobacco, I gazed on the lake with its various shades of blue in almost complete solitude. No speedboats disturbed the peace and quiet, which will soon no longer be the case. In fact, none were within eyesight. To my right and left, several piers in each direction were empty, except for one person in the far distance. One individual was sitting on the steps in front of her cabin about 150 yards away. I could see two gardeners clearing the land around the three tiers of cabins nearby. Otherwise, I was alone and loving it, reinforcing my plan to travel throughout the Western United States in a converted van next winter. Driving through Nevada to get here I was struck once again by the beautiful enormity of this country. I can find more solitude here than I can by traveling almost anywhere else, except maybe Australia (not a bad idea).

Mother Nature is indeed a wonder to behold. How unfortunate that city dwellers so seldom are able to be healed by communing directly with Her magic, without being distracted by human interaction.

Earlier today I was heartened to read an article on The New York Times, which I found by noticing that it was the “most emailed” article. (I should look at this list more often, because when I do, I usually find a real gem, as I did with “Raising a Moral Child" and "All or Nothing Marriage," for the "wisdom of crowds" is a fact.

Today’s article was “What Does Buddhism Require?”, an interview with Jay L. Garfield, who has taught philosophy at several universities and is currently the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Professor of Humanities, Yale-NUS College in Singapore. He is at work on a book called “Engaging Buddhism: Why Buddhism Matters to Contemporary Philosophy.”

For some time, in conversations with friends about the Buddhist belief that "there is no self or soul," I have argued that what has been meant by that expression is that there is no separate self with boundaries. Rather, the self is without boundary and is interwoven with other selves and all of reality. But I had never seen any such written explanation. So I was reassured that Garfield articulated that understanding in much the same way with the following statements:
A strong sense of self — of one’s own substantial reality, uniqueness and independence of others — may not be psychologically or morally healthy. It can lead to egoism, to narcissism and to a lack of care for others.... More positively, the Buddhist tradition encourages us to see ourselves as impermanent, interdependent individuals, linked to one another and to our world through shared commitments to achieving an understanding of our lives and a reduction of suffering. It encourages us to rethink egoism and to consider an orientation to the world characterized by care and joint responsibility.
My mood has also been boosted by a decision to finally bite the bullet and buy a new laptop (it should be delivered to me here Thursday). Getting a telephone call from Microsoft Support that informed me how to install Word 2013 without buying it again helped get me over that hump.

I also feel good about my decision about how to handle my ambivalence about writing about people who are still alive with whom I have experienced conflict without giving them a chance to correct the record or offer a rebuttal. I plan to hold off on distributing the first edition of my autobiography to the general public. Rather, I will make it available only to those people I write about, plus some consultants and perhaps to my blog subscribers who promise not to distribute it widely to others. Then, I’ll incorporate feedback into the second edition if there is one. I’m trying my best to be accurate, fair, and considerate in what I say about others, but it’s a delicate matter, so I feel good about this approach. Nevertheless. I’m still welcome to suggested changes in this plan.

The controversy about the racist Clippers’ owner’s comments is also encouraging. Exposing the enduring reality of racism and affirming the need to address it is always a positive development.

And just now my neighbor here connected a cable to my TV so I’ll be able to watch the Giants and Warriors on a large HD screen rather than trying to find some way to stream them on my laptop. Life is good!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Berrett-Koehler and My Final Push

Inspired by recent communication with Berrett-Koehler Publishers (BK) Vice-President, David Marshall, I may not post much here for the next two months. Instead I plan to concentrate as fully as possible on finishing the first edition of my self-published autobiography and making copies available free of charge at my 70th birthday party on July 26. I’ll also mail it to anyone who wants a copy and will be asking readers for feedback, including their opinion about whether I should seek a publisher who could help me improve it and distribute it more widely.

I want to make this book as good as possible. I’ve almost finished the first draft, with 35 chapters and 350 pages, and believe it’s pretty good. But there’s a long way for it to go to be very good. I could use help, especially in terms of how to shorten it.

My conversation with David began when he called to interview me as part of BK’s branding study. Though we did not discuss my book, my interaction with him and a proposed modification from Bob Anshuetz, my copy editor, have prompted me to coin a new title, Opposing the System to Save the World: My Story.

I’m moving toward that title because my phone call with David and his follow-up email reinforce my confidence that my analysis of our social system, as I expressed for example in “Transforming the System with Evolutionary Revolution,” is sensible. At least it’s worth serious consideration. Most of the expert “systems thinkers” from whom I’ve solicited feedback have not responded. But those who did, like on the Wiser Earth network that was inspired by Paul Kawken’s Blessed Unrest, have been supportive. Likewise, most of my peers from whom I’ve solicited feedback have been rather unresponsive. But those who have commented have been supportive.

I believe my analysis is original and important. I did not borrow it from anyone, but rather developed it in dialog with associates. Most recently, I summarized my thinking in the Preface to my autobiography. That section reads:
Our global society is a self-perpetuating social system of inter-related elements – namely, our institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals. No one element controls this system, which operates to concentrate wealth and power. 
Most people who write about “the system” only talk about our political and economic institutions. But you and I reinforce the system every day in countless ways. Without our participation, the system would collapse. And our other major institutions, other than government and business, such as media and schools, reinforce the system in essential ways.

One reason that this systemic perspective is important is that it avoids scapegoating. Different people have many different scapegoats. Among those who want to pin down blame, there is no consensus about what element of the system to blame – because it can’t be done in a way that holds up to logical analysis. We are all responsible. But some people are compelled to direct their frustration and anger at something.

Avoiding scapegoating is important because if one does not scapegoat, it makes no sense to tap anger to attack “enemies,” or “opponents,” which does not work in the long run anyway.

Instead, we need a positive, creative vision with which we can inspire others and ourselves to be more active to help change the system by changing ourselves, our culture, and our institutions – and creating new structures that help us better serve humanity.

My conversation with David reassured me that I am not as alone as I sometimes feel with regard to this perspective. I don’t know if I have ever had a conversation with anyone with whom I felt so much that we were on the same wavelength.

But that experience did not surprise me, because the BK books I have read -- Power and Love, Transformational Scenario Planning, True North Groups, and The Secret of Teams -- have resonated with and clarified my thinking immensely, often prompting me to give copies to friends and colleagues. And the book I bought two weeks ago, Deepening Community, looks like another great one, as does one David recommended, Collective Visioning, by Linda Stout. David said, “She is a miracle worker who has helped underrepresented people throughout America discover and express their voices.”

The following list of upcoming books also indicates why I hold BK in such high regard:
  • A Peacock in the Land of Penguins, 4th edition by BJ Gallagher. With more than 365,000 copies sold and translations in 20 languages, BJ Gallagher's pioneering book is a classic in the fields of creativity and diversity. Organizations around the world have used the book to improve team communication, effectiveness, and innovation. We all have a little bit of peacock inside of us!
  • Power Through Partnership by Betsy Polk and Maggie Ellis Chotas. Society erroneously trains us to believe that women do not partner well with other women. However, with extensive research, Polk and Chotas show that partnerships between women are even more effective because of shared values and experiences, and in this book they show us all how to do it.
  • The Confidence Myth by Helene Lerner. Research shows that women consistently undervalue their skills and readiness for challenging jobs, promotions, and assignments--while men have the opposite bias. How can women compete on this un-level playing field if they talk themselves out the game before they start? Helene Lerner tells women that confidence is overrated and what is really important is to step up and be a leader, ready or not.
  • Are You Intriguing? By Sam Horn. Our deepest yearning is to connect, yet many of us don’t know how. We’re taught how to read and write in school; but we’re not taught how to genuinely engage people and create mutually-rewarding interactions. We’re not taught how to earn people’s interest so they voluntarily give us their attention, friendship and business. People want to be intrigued and they want to be intrigued fast and this book provides NEW ways to do that.
  • Singletasking by Devora Zack 
  • In any situation, doing one thing at a time is more effective than multitasking—yet why do we continually lapse into the habit of doing many things poorly all at once? What if you could do more things, more successfully by improving focus, eliminating distraction, and managing your environment? The answer is singletasking, whatever the question.
  • Leadership for a Fractured World by Dean Williams. Harvard University professor Dean Williams shares what he has learned from his decade of working with leaders around the world to bring about change in today's complex, interdependent, conflicted, power-dispersed environments.
  • Dare to Serve: The Unexpected Power of the Leader Who Serves by Cheryl Bachelder. Thirty-five years ago, Robert Greenleaf introduced the concept of the servant leader who leads by putting the well-being of others first. While many have found the servant leadership concept intriguing, it has never gained a sure foothold inside of corporations. The concept has been marginalized and misunderstood. It has been simplistically and pejoratively cast as “nice-guy leadership” – perhaps best-suited to the non-profit arena, but certainly not a serious idea for driving public company performance. This book aims to set the record straight and is written by the CEO of Popeye’s, an international fast-food franchise.
So you may want to subscribe to the BK newsletter by clicking on this link.

And to learn more about BK and its early history, read the text of an excellent recent speech by its President and Founder, Steve Persanti, “Secrets of Berrett-Koehler’s Success.”

‘Til later, alligators.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Reflections from Ecotopia

I left Vegas in a positive frame of mind. Readers had recently sent me great feedback, movies and music had inspired me, a dream had enlightened me, I had won at blackjack, and I was headed back home to the lush green mountains of Northern California.

The most heartwarming email I had received was the following, whose subject was “Revive the failing bird,” a reference to my report on a dream that featured a near-dead bird that represented my self-identity as a community organizer:
Hi Mr. Hudson and greetings from Minnesota!  Seeing your beautiful pictures from the Dominican Republic made my desire for a spring thaw even stronger.  Eventually we will be able to see the ground again rather than layer upon layer of snow and ice...
My name is Amy Ledoux.  I am 40 years old and am the mother of seven (three adopted as a single parent, two are my husband's from his first marriage and, at the ages of 38 and 39, I gave birth to the last two little miracles who could have been nicknamed "surprise" and "are you kidding me???")  I have no idea how I began receiving your emails, but I have been reading them for years and I wanted to tell you that they have been a Godsend.  I began losing my eyesight a few years ago from Fuch's Dystrophy.  I became quite confined to my house as my eye sight worsened.  Last February I could no longer see the traffic lanes in front of me or distinguish the lights on a traffic pole, so I hung up my keys.  In August I went to cross the street with my babies in a stroller in front of me and my mom pulled me back so that we wouldn't get run over by the vehicle I did not see, so I no longer went for walks without an escort.
But, I was able to blow up the font of your emails and hold my cell phone right in front of my face and continue to read your emails.  They were a great source of consistency, comfort, and a connection to the outside world.
In February of this year I had my first cornea transplant and my vision went from 20/200 to 20/25 in my left eye!  Life is progressing and I am thankful for every moment of it!  I am thankful that I can see the keyboard in front of me to write this email to you.
The reason that I am reaching out to you is in response to your writing about the seemingly dead bird in your dream.  I may have a cause that could help revive the buzzard.  I am forwarding an article that was published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch this past Sunday.  It was sent to me by my good friend, Mike Tikkanen, who is the subject of the article.  I think the rest speaks for itself.  And, just so you know, I don't know exactly how old Mike is but, I think we can safely say he has been buying the senior coffee at McDonalds for several decades!
Should you ever decide to make a stop in the Midwest on your U.S. tour, I hope that you make a pit stop in Wisconsin or Minnesota.  I think we could arrange a get together of several open minded individuals and enjoy a good conversation in person.
Baby #2 is up and trying to rip off my glasses and grab the keyboard.  Gotta go.  I believe all of Mike's contact info is in the article if you choose to follow-up with him.
She then included an article, “He hopes the public will soon notice the children he can't ignore,” Mike Tikkanen and his work with Kids At Risk Action (KARA) advocating for abused and neglected children.

I replied:
Dear Amy,
Wow. That's incredible. It really warms my heart to hear your story and to know that my writings were so meaningful to you under those conditions. As is the case with many writers, I often write not knowing if anyone is really reading what I write. It's great to know you were really reading!
Actually I'm familiar with Mike and hold his work in very high regard. May I post your email with a link to that article about him?
I have plenty of causes which inspire me. What is lacking is collaborators. Recently, it seems some partnerships may be forming with the Full Employment project and I just posted some encouraging feedback from Gary Pace on the Holistic Community Pledge.
We shall see. In the meantime, I'm enjoying working on my autobiography.
Thanks again and best of luck with the family! 
Amy shared her email with Mike, who replied:
Wow Amy this is good news. As is your improving eyesight.  Thank you so much for keeping us in your thoughts and helping us advance our Kids At Risk Action effort.
I am very familiar with Wade’s work and so glad you have made this connection and hope that he will make our information available to his readership.  I believe he has a pretty big following.
Wade, Hello from your pals in MN.  I so love the smallness of the planet when my friends connecting me back into their circles.  Amy was KARA’s executive director for quite some time and has helped us become an organized advocacy group making hour long documentaries with Public TV stations (we are in negotiations this week) and presenting resolutions to our DFL convention this spring in hopes of making life better for at risk children.  We are really excited about the possibilities this year and would greatly appreciate any attention you might give our efforts.
Keep on writing and organizing as it does tie us all together and keep raising awareness.
As an odd tidbit related to your dead bird in the attic, years ago (about 30) I owned a junkyard with 29 employees and it made me crazy.  I don’t know if this dream prompted my bailing out of the business, but I suspect it plays in somewhere; I remember the anchor around my neck and what seemed like an entire night of (dreaming) trying to remove it.  I much prefer my bodies flying dreams but have not been able to replay them recently.
My very best wishes to both of you,
An email from Gary Pace in response to the draft Holistic Growth Pledge also heartened me. He said, “I think this looks really good, Wade. Simple, yet deep. Could be a good kernel to work around. Thanks for continuing to work with this thread of connection.”

In addition, Malcolm Hoover, had responded to that draft:
Wade, this is great. I would only add to this that I will identify and reach out to someone who I identify as a possible ally at least 3 times a year and try to build unity with that person and educate myself about their issue(s). For instance, for me it would be reaching out to the LGBTQ community and educating myself particularly on the issues of trans men. Thanks for including me.
I replied:
I’m glad to receive your response. Yes, I would think that each participant could add to it in her or his own way, as you have. My intent was to leave it open in that way, rather than trying to over-prescribe, and trust each person’s essential nature to guide them — if they pause to listen.
At times, I feel my efforts to facilitate deeper, more intimate dialog are a waste of time. But when very astute individuals such as Gary and Malcolm offer comments such as those, and Amy and Mike offers such words of support, I’m reassured that at least I’m not totally crazy. And then I reflect on examples such as the success of the True North Groups and how rewarding the “soul sessions” I initiated in Mexico were (they merely asked people to “talk from the heart,” with no predetermined agenda). So I persist with my obsession.

A number of films have reinforced my feeling that the lack of authenticity in the modern world is a widespread concern. The second “Hunger Games” affirmed the need for “deep friendship” rooted in honesty. “American Hustle” (what a great title; it sums up our culture) confronted the issue provocatively. And the incredible “Particle Fever” offered the perfect counterpoint to the hustling mentality: “The very things that are least important to our survival are the very things that make us human.” Einstein also said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

Last night a woman at a pizza parlor where I went to hear music told me why she likes living on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore. Life here is hard, she said, so people have to rely on each other, which is humbling. Being more humble, they are more “genuine,” she said.

“Particle Fever” also inspired me to stick with my resolve to nurture “deep community.” The relentless, decades-long pursuit of truth by those physicists was amazing. One never knows what the result will be. All success is built on a series of failures. But if the quest is righteous, it will provide enough reward in and of itself to stay on the path. The Holy Grail is not merely a myth.

On my last night in Vegas, the Tony Award-winning musical “Million Dollar Quartet” encouraged me to stick with my focus on “soul” and “speaking from the heart.” Loosely based on the accidental encounter of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis in the Sun Records studio shortly after each of them had “made it,” the musical tells the story of how Sun Records owner Sam Phillips believed in Black music and was determined to bring its liberating power to White audiences. Eventually his persistence paid off. Perhaps someday mine will as well.

The next morning I woke with the remnant of a powerful dream lodged in my mind. I quickly captured its message with this thought, “A key paradox: I want to save the world without being an evangelist.” This formulation was so strong it stuck with me and I posted it on Facebook, where it received interesting responses. Three people “liked” it, which is about average for me on Facebook these days, but three or four others raised objections, which prompted me to try to clarify my point with this statement:
Evangelists arrogantly assume they know something that others don't know and need to convince them to do what the evangelists want them to do. In fact, most people already know what they need to know and believe what they need to believe, but don't see a way to act effectively. One non-evangelical approach is to inspire others with the power of example and invite them to decide together how to collaborate to act on our universal values.
Those objections to my statement and many others over the years lead me to believe that most of my peers are locked into an old, top-down notion of leadership that is rapidly fading with younger people, who are more horizontal and collaborative. But young people don’t trust old people. So I am limited in my ability to find collaborators.

These reflections reinforce my tendency to stop trying to organize. If a strong team emerges with the Full Employment project (some signs are hopeful), I’ll stay involved with that effort. But mostly I’m just going to read, write, and dialog.

Driving to Lake Tahoe through Nevada, that dream fragment stuck with me and prompted me to compose in my head a new manifesto, titled “How to Save the World in X Simple Steps.” Alone with my own thoughts, I became excited about this statement, which could end up being a small booklet.

But then reality hit, symbolized by an unexpected snow storm that almost prevented me from arriving at my cabin. Being back in Ecotopia is comforting. I no longer have to endure women telling me they love my hair, or men patting me on the back and calling me “Einstein.”

But I’m no fan of snow and cold weather, so I’ll just hole up next to my heater and re-write, re-write, and re-write. The first draft of the autobiography is almost complete, but it’s coming in at about 350 pages, which is probably much too long, so I have my work cut out for me these next eight weeks before I return to my refurbished apartment, where I plan to offer folks a foot massage when they come to my second housewarming.

And then there’s my 70th birthday, July 26. It falls on a Saturday, So let’s party.