jjblack on April 16th, 2013

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” –Steve Jobs

Reprint of an article I noticed on LinkedIn by James Mitchell

The late Steve Jobs delivers his keynote speech at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, June 9, 2008.

Truly happy and successful people get that way by becoming the best, most genuine version of themselves they can be. Not on the outside–on the inside. It’s not about a brand, a reputation, a persona. It’s about reality. Who you really are.

Sounds simple, I know. It is a simple concept. The problem is, it’s very hard to do, it takes a lot of work, and it can take a lifetime to figure it out.

Nothing worth doing in life is ever easy. If you want to do great work, it’s going to take a lot of hard work to do it. And you’re going to have to break out of your comfort zone and take some chances that will scare the crap out of you.

But you know, I can’t think of a better way to spend your life. I mean, what’s life for if not finding yourself and trying to become the best, most genuine version of you that you can be?

That’s what Steve Jobs meant when he said this at a Stanford University commencement speech:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.

You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something–your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.

Now, let’s for a moment be realistic about this. Insightful as that advice may be, it sounds a little too amorphous and challenging to resonate with today’s quick-fix culture. These days, if you can’t tell people exactly what to do and how to do it, it falls on deaf ears.

Not only that, but what Jobs was talking about, what I’m talking about, requires focus and discipline, two things that are very hard to come by these days. Why? Because, focus and discipline are hard. It’s so much easier to give in to distraction and instant gratification. Easy and addictive.

To give you a little incentive to take on the challenge, to embark on the road to self-discovery, here are three huge benefits from working to become the best, most genuine version of yourself.

It will make you happy. Getting to know yourself will make you feel more comfortable in your own skin. It will reduce your stress and anxiety. It will make you a better spouse, a better parent, a better friend. It will make you a better person. Those are all pretty good reasons, if you ask me.

Besides, you really won’t achieve anything significant in life until you know the real you. Not your brand, your LinkedIn profile, how you come across, or what anyone thinks of you. The genuine you. There’s one simple reason why you shouldn’t try to be something you’re not, and it’s that you can’t. The real you will come out anyway. So forget your personal brand and start spending time on figuring out who you really are and trying to become the best version of that you can be.

You pay a huge price when you engage in mindless distraction. The only people that really care about you are your loved ones, your friends and family. Everyone else is too busy living his own little mini drama. To put it bluntly, your network couldn’t care less about you.

That’s why engaging yourself and others in mindless distraction isn’t worth your time or theirs. More important, it will absolutely keep you from focusing on accomplishing whatever great things you might manage to achieve in life if you set your mind to it.

There’s a business concept called opportunity cost. When you choose one course of action, you miss out on all the other opportunities you might have chosen to pursue but didn’t. People rarely stop to consider that until it’s too late.

It’s the most exciting journey you will ever embark on. We’re all enthralled by adventure. We love to read and watch movies about other people’s journeys, real or imagined. The Hobbit. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Into Thin Air.

We love to take vacations, to travel to all sorts of places. And when we do, we revel in the natural beauty of Kauai’s Na Pali Coast, the Grand Canyon, the Alps. We marvel at the great works of others: the art, the architecture, the Pyramids, Stonehenge.

And yet, the opportunity for adventure is right there in front of each and every one of us. Until you take it, you’ll never know what you might achieve. What marvels you might create. What you might discover. All you have to do is start the journey.

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, an executive coach, and a former senior executive of the technology industry. He’s managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a Silicon Valley-based strategy consulting firm. Contact Tobak; follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. @SteveTobak

jjblack on November 16th, 2012

The New Evangelical Agenda – A Post by Jim Wallis

The day after the election, Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler said, “I think this was an evangelical disaster.”
Not really. But it was a disaster for the religious right, which had again tied its faith to the partisan political agenda of the Republican Party — which did lose the election. But Nov. 6 was an even deeper disaster for the religious right’s leaders, because they will no longer be able to control or easily co-opt the meaning of the term “evangelical.”
During this election, much of the media continued to use the word as a political term — as a key constituency of the Republican conservative base. But what the media really means when they use term “evangelical” is “conservative white evangelical.” All other kinds of evangelicals are just never counted.
Just as the 2012 electoral results finally revealed the demographic transformation of America — which has been occurring for quite some time — it also dramatically demonstrated how the meaning of the word “evangelical” is being transformed.
Evangelical can no longer be accurately used to mean “white evangelical.” 
Of the 71 percent (PewCNN) of America’s Hispanics who voted for President Barack Obama, the vast majority are either Catholic or evangelical/Pentecostal. Obama lost the white Catholic vote, but he won “the Catholic vote” because of Hispanic Catholics. Similarly, Obama lost the white evangelical vote, but he won the majority of Hispanics who call themselves evangelical or Pentecostal. Likewise, Obama won 93 percent of the African-American vote, the majority of whom are members of black churches whose theology is quite evangelical. And 75 percent of the Asian-American vote, whose churchgoing members are also mostly evangelical, went for Obama.
Mitt Romney got about the same percentage of white voters that George Herbert Walker Bush did (about 59 percent v. 60 percentfor Bush), which resulted in 426 electoral votes for Bush, but only 206 for Romney.
So what does all that tell us? Very simply, the majority of the white evangelicals went for Gov. Mitt Romney, and the majority of the non-white evangelicals voted for President Barack Obama. Obama also won 60 percent of younger voters (ages 18-29), and that likely means younger white evangelicals voted for the president at a higher rate than their parents.
If demographics changed this election, they have also now changed the meaning of the term “evangelical.”
Religious right leaders like Ralph Reed, Franklin Graham, and Tony Perkins did everything they could to turn evangelicals to Romney, especially in the final run-up to the election. Their efforts to turn concerns about abortion and gay marriage into partisan arguments for a Republican victory — and to threaten dangerous consequences of a Democratic win — were, by their own estimates, the most extensive ever. But they failed and didn’t change the outcome of the election.
While most evangelicals are still “pro-life,” abortion is not their only concern. Not all are convinced that Republicans have the best answers to all the life issues. While most evangelicals are strongly committed to strengthening family life, not all think equal rights for gay and lesbian people are a threat to the family. Poverty reduction, immigration reform, a consistent life ethic, the creation care of environmental protection, a less militaristic foreign policy, and a deep commitment to racial and economic justice are all issues of concern.
The ironic and tragic thing about the religious right is how little of their own agenda they have achieved. And by voting for a conservative ideological agenda, they have actually hurt the poor, resisted immigration reform, promoted endless wars, and neglected the environment.
There is a new evangelical agenda for a new evangelical demographic.
It’s time to change the meaning of the word “evangelical” in America. It’s time to tell the media to look at the changing demographics, change its terminology, and take account of all the “evangelicals.” And it’s time to describe the broader list of “moral” and “biblical” issues that evangelicals care about. This is a new, diverse coalition for a new America — and a changing evangelical demographic is a central part of that. The narrow conservatism of the religious right’s white evangelicals is simply not a faith to and for that new evangelical world.
The biggest mistake the religious right made was to make the word “evangelical” a political term. Evangelical is a theological commitment, not a political one. It’s about the centrality of Christ and the authority of the Bible. It’s following Jesus and our obedience to the Scriptures that leads us to defend the poor, protect the most vulnerable, welcome the stranger, seek racial reconciliation and justice, and be good stewards of the environment and peacemakers in a world of war.
Those commitments will always challenge politics, but they should never be partisan. Democrats should not make the same mistake that Republicans did in believing they have any permanent voting bloc. The policies and priorities of political parties and leaders should be and will be examined by the faith agenda of the new, diverse, and growing evangelical demographic — of the community we call the body of Christ.
This election signaled an important change in American public life and a transformation in the meaning of the word “evangelical.”
Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. His forthcoming book, On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good, is set to release in early 2013. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

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jjblack on June 12th, 2012

I have read about and seen support for the idea that in a business culture, or even a family culture, that if you are not given the ‘permission to fail” that it crushes real creativity and expression.  That makes sense.  However, it is terribly frightening in business….to really say its “ok” to actually fail?  This could cost us millions!

But, even as Peter Drucker once said it, in order to succeed you have to “Increase your failure rate”.

As proof that this attitue really works, recently a young woman, Sarah Blakely became the youngest person to ever appear in the billionaire list and on the front of Forbes magazine (at that time, not sure Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has been there yet), and credited the idea that she was raised in a family where the idea of trying and failing was OK.  She was actually asked what have you failed at this week.

Imagine at your family’s dinner table Dad asks expectantly  “How was your week?”

You say, “I tried something new – and I completely messed up!”

And Dad says  “Great! I’m so proud of you for failing.”

I am sure that that would never have happened in my family.  How about you?  But Sara Blakely credits that attitude as the secret of her success with her company Spanx.

Most of the coverage in the video below focused on the product and her viral marketing (she did not advertise at all to get to over 250 million in sales), but in the interview you will see how she credits her Dad telling her it was OK to fail. That in her family it was more important to try and do things, and fail, than to play it safe.  In her house you would not be punished, or even frowned upon for failing. Instead a “congratulations” for trying.

CBS Interview with Sarah Blakely

So go out and do something, even if it might fail.  Start today!  And either way let us know how it went.  We will support you either way.

And be sure to encourage your kids the same way.  We raised our kids that we were OK with failure, they saw their Dad try and fail at things, but I am pretty sure we did not actually encourage it as Sarah Blakely’s Dad did. We need more of that! What do you think?


jjblack on May 25th, 2012
Don’t even need to comment on this one:
Mahatma Gandhi
  • Politics without principle
  • Wealth without work
  • Commerce without morality
  • Pleasure without conscience
  • Education without character
  • Science without humanity
  • Worship without sacrifice

D uring critical times in my life meditation has helped me develop a steady heart and less fearful state of mind.  More than that meditation gave me a centered optimism that, in spite of all the things my crazy mind was cooking up, like all that was wrong with the world, and what was wrong in my world in particular, (at least from outward appearances), it provided a different kind of perspective, broader and more open. There was a new expansiveness that was unexplored, but very present, in which I knew that God was present, with me, and seeking to comfort and connect with me in new ways.

A t times, after experiencing such closeness with God, typical worded prayer seemed so weak and feeble.  I described this to a friend as if it was like after engaging in a Vulcan “mind meld” with someone (if that was possible outside of Science Fiction), talking with  words would be feeble and inept to communicate even barely the whole spectrum of understanding  just achieved.  That wordless silence and presence communicates more than any linear string of sentences ever could.  That is probably one reason we have such a hard time describing the ineffable God we encounter.

Encountering your authentic Self

This is not just with God.  In meditation i also encounter myself, the authentic self.  Meditation is a way to circumvent the ego, to get distance, and, in time let the ego, that false self, die in the process.

God wants to encounter you, the real you.  The ego will not be able to be present with God.  It is the baggage of the self. If you are in deep meditation you leave that baggage behind.  Now you can begin to operate out of a deeper self.  A true self.  To be that one and only fingerprint that God had imagined you to be before the beginning of the world.

People will notice – not that you need them to.

W hen you operate from that deep authentic place a new energy and subtle power works to make you more effective, on track, and centered in your purpose.  People around you will also sense your real-ness, your centered-ness and more definitive direction. In that place you are less anxious, or fearful, of the world for the real you knows it cannot harm the greater One within you. Through meditation you connect and become more and more like the One you are spending time with in your “inner closet” as Jesus described it.

Mystics through the ages have written and shared their common experience of this mediation place. It is a Way, a path to more centered-ness and connection. A practice which helps you to be more fully present and able to look more deeply into the nature of things.

It creates a sense of openness and oneness.  That “unity” that is often talked about by the mystics which  is hard to explain with words. All spiritual traditions have these mystics sharing their common experience. They all attempt to explain it in the language of their tradition.

Buddhists call this kind of mediation mindful meditation, or “mindfulness”.  The maitri practice, as it is called, is translated as “unconditional friendliness”.  Meditation is the unconditional friendliness toward the now, to whatever is happening now in the moment – regardless of whatever is happening in the moment, in all moments, whether things are going well or falling apart.

In the Christian tradition it has had many forms but the one we have been engaged with is called “Centering Prayer” which was just revived from earlier church times to our modern world in the 2oth century.

O nce you begin this practice of meditation you are developing an inner witness, a non ego based witness,  your own authentic self who “see’s ” with other eyes and from another place or presence.  It is not the simple stepping back and looking at things ” from a distance”. It is a whole new perspective, informed by that time ” in the closet” with God.  Some claim that to not have this kind of perspective is to have a truly distorted view of realty.  Without this added perspective no real ground truth can be reached.

The Most Important Skill

D eveloping this inner witness may be the most important skill you can develop. It is the connection to the real you, the you who was placed here with all your uniqueness to be the person, right now, right here, who is impacting the world in your own unique “fingerprinted” way.  When we stray from this centered place that isn when we suffer and we cause ourselves and our world the most harm.

Someone said that If we are not using our unique gifts in the world, and being our authentic self while here, someone in the world will suffer.

Meditation also helps us be fully honest and more easygoing with ourselves.  We have less need to bond, to become attached to, the suffering and fear which enviably comes our way.  Or to illusions about ourselves. We become more of a friend to ourselves no matter what comes our way.

M editation is not only about relieving suffering, it is also about joy!  It opens us to the genuine joy that can be present in the moment.  The birds singing.  The sunshine on your face, the caressing of a gentle breeze, conversation with a friend, all are heightened, accented, and experienced more fully as you are really  present.  When your mind is quiet and your heart steady, the world is seen as it is, full of grace.

A Jesuit priest once described this mediative process as ” it all gets sorted out in the Great Silence”

My First Encouter

I remember my first experience of this kind of centering prayer or meditation.  My wife and I were invited to join a group of sisters in a convent in Colorado Springs for some conference.  Which was unusual for two Protestant seminary students at the time. There we were, sitting in a group of about 20 people and after some talk were asked to pray.

A small bell was chimed and everyone fell silent.  After about 4 minutes of this I was ready to crawl out of my head.  I had things to do, people to see, things to say out loud.  My ” monkey mind” jumped from tree to tree not wanting to let this silence quench it’s dominance.  This went on for 20 minutes!  I can say without any hesitation that I did not get any closer to my real self or God during that session.  I just did not get it!  I was not prepared mentally nor was I in a place spiritually to “get” it.

Being Ready

Being ready is something hard to explain.  A many years ago I tried to read a book by Eckart Tolle called the “Power of Now”.  I say “tried” because I truly did not understand a word of what the man was trying to say.  I was not in a place to “get” it.  When I picked that same volume up just few years later, after  I started meditating, then I found that I could read it and appreciate some of it’s message. The need for presence in the moment. The message was no longer just Gobbly Gook to me.  It made sense.

The reason I bring this concept of “being ready” up is that I want you, who may not be familiar with these concepts, to relax and feel ok if it does not come easy at first.

The Ego Won’t Want to Go There!

B elieve me your ego will do every thing in it’s power to prevent you from doing this practice. The Ego knows that this path will loosen it’s grip and power over the real you. The you buried under years and years of external messages about who you should be, what you should want, and how you should live.  The real you has been “should on” your whole life.  Meditation is an excavation and archeology of soul.  It unearths the authentic you to live free again.

The process does take time and will sometimes not be easy.  So be patent and know you are moving in the right direction.

Here is a great quote on patience from the Catholic priest and writer Henri Nouwen:

“Patience is a hard discipline.  It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the buss, the end of the rain,the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict.  Patience is not waiting passively until someone else does something.  Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are.  When we are impatient, we try to get away from where we are.  We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else.  Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.”

“When going through hell”, as one poet said, keep on going”.  There is a way that during the flames of struggle, the trials and troubles that come our way, that meditation tempers us like a sword is tempered by repeated placement in the flames and then being dosed in cool water.  Not to harden us but rather to bring out the authentic power of our unique self.

Recently I advised a friend that life’s trials are like God’s oven.  We all are a unique recipe of ingredients which God pulled together in wisdom to create something quite delicious to the world.  So when we are in the oven, don’t come out half baked!  One way to be at peace while  in the oven is to medittate and be mindfully patient.  We are the poems and recipes of God.  Meditation let’s us sit in the flames long enough to be transformed into who we really were meant to be.

So my friend, use this practice to reacquaint yourself with the authentic you, and with God.  It is the key to becoming the centered person God made you to be and the unique gift you actually already are to the world.



This question begs an answer as frustrated political camps get more entrenched on differing views of our economic policies.  Even friends get into heated discussions and sides are taken.

Today I read an article which may shed some light.  Embedded values won’t change with this new understanding but I found it helpful to think of it this way.  One economist shows how Obama’s policies are actually helping with exports but, as you will read, this can also explain why the economy has two main divisions which may account for the growing chasm between our political parties.  Insight does not always bring change but it may soften each sides aggression over the issues.

Tale of the two economies

Published 10:08 p.m., Monday, April 9, 2012  NYT

The creative dynamism of American business is astounding and a little terrifying. Over the past five years, amid turmoil and uncertainty, U.S. businesses have shed employees, becoming more efficient and more productive. According to The Wall Street Journal on Monday, the revenue per employee at S&P 500 companies increased from $378,000 in 2007 to $420,000 in 2011.

These efficiency gains are boosting the U.S. economy overall and U.S. exports in particular. Two years ago, President Barack Obama promised to double exports over the next five years. The U.S. might actually meet that target. As Tyler Cowen reports in a fantastic article in The American Interest called “What Export-Oriented America Means,” American exports are surging.

Cowen argues that America’s export strength will only build in the years ahead. He points to three trends that will boost the nation’s economic performance.

First, smart machines. China and other low-wage countries have a huge advantage when factory floors are crowded with workers. But we are moving to an age of quiet factories, with more robots and better software.

Then there is the shale oil and gas revolution. In the past year, fracking, a technology pioneered in the United States, has given us access to vast amounts of U.S. energy that can be sold abroad.

Finally, there is the growth of the global middle class. When China, India and such places were first climbing the income ladder, they imported a lot of raw materials from places like Canada, Australia and Chile to fuel the early stages of their economic growth. But, in the coming decades, as their consumers get richer, they will be importing more pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, planes and entertainment, important U.S. products.

If Cowen’s case is right, the U.S. is not a nation in decline. We may be in the early days of an export boom that will eventually power an economic revival, including a manufacturing revival. But, as Cowen emphasizes, this does not mean nirvana is at hand.

His work leaves the impression that there are two interrelated U.S. economies. On the one hand, there is the globalized tradable sector — companies that have to compete with everybody everywhere. These companies, with the sword of foreign competition hanging over them, have become relentlessly dynamic and very (sometimes brutally) efficient.

On the other hand, there is a large sector of the economy that does not face this global competition — health care, education and government. Leaders in this economy try to improve productivity and use new technologies, but they are not compelled by do-or-die pressure, and their pace of change is slower.

A rift is opening up. The first, globalized sector is producing a lot of the productivity gains, but it is not producing a lot of the jobs. The second more protected sector is producing more jobs, but not as many productivity gains.

In politics, we are beginning to see conflicts between those who live in Economy I and those who live in Economy II. Republicans often live in and love the efficient globalized sector and believe it should be a model for the entire society. They want to use private health care markets and choice-oriented education reforms to make society as dynamic, creative and efficient as Economy I.

Democrats are more likely to live in and respect the values of the second sector. They emphasize the destructive side of Economy I streamlining — the huge profits at the top and the stagnant wages at the middle.

Republicans believe the globalized sector is racing far out in front of government, adapting in ways inevitable and proper. If given enough freedom, Economy I entrepreneurs will create the future jobs we need. Government should prepare people to enter that sector but get out of its way as much as possible.

Democrats are more optimistic that government can enhance the productivity of the global sectors of the economy while redirecting their benefits. They want to use Economy I to subsidize Economy II.

I don’t know which coalition will gain the upper hand. But I do think today’s arguments are rooted in growing structural rifts. There’s an urgent need to understand the interplay between the two different sectors. I’d also add that it’s not always easy to be in one of those pockets — including the media and higher education — that are making the bumpy transition from Economy II to Economy I.

jjblack on February 29th, 2012

The truth is we seldom become fully who we are till we are forced to it.  Some people say, that when something bad or tragic happens, there is something in us that rises to the occasion.  As Hemingway said it, we show “Grace under pressure” – it is what comes forth in most of us when challenged.   Others say that this talk of grace is just a way to rationalize hard times and painful experience, putting a positive patina or a good face on tragedy.  But, it is a grace in itself.

Beneath all the talk of tragedy and grace,  we are all are destined to be opened by God, one way or another: by the living of our days, whether we like it or not, whether we choose to participate or not, we will, in time, all of us, wear the deeper part of who we are as a new skin.

“Either by erosion from without or by shedding from within – and often by both- we are forced to live more authentically.  And once the crisis that opened us passes, the real choice becomes: will we continue such authentic living?”   (triggered and modified slightly from a reading by Mark Nepo)

After writing the words above I felt that I needed to add a chorus from a song I wrote a few years ago:

“…I’ve seen the lightning,

I stood in the rain,

I felt the thunder,

And I’ve kissed the flames,

I came out of deep waters

not quite the same…..”

When I wrote the above song’s chorus, as is often the case while I compose, I was not sure what it meant.  The melody came first and then the words just came along.  But when writing the words above, it triggered my memory of the song and I felt the chorus belonged here.  It was a song born during a period of me being broken open.  It now is a reminder to stay connected to the grace which opened me, and to let that deeper part of me remain out in the open.


jjblack on February 23rd, 2012

Below is a repeat of a post by Richard Rhor .

I am a big fan of Thomas Merton so this quote caught my eye.  But truthfully the space between Catholic Orthodoxy and Protestant Evangelicalism is a great tension filled space where there is much possibility – if we will be open to each other to learn what God may have in mind TODAY – without the hubris of thinking our group has all the answers.  Check back to my blog note on Epistemological (in this case Theological) Humility.  It is the way of being open to the TRUTH and the letting it transform you.

Thomas Merton said it was actually dangerous to put the scriptures in the hands of people whose inner self is not yet sufficiently awakened to encounter the Spirit, because they will try to use God for their own egocentric purposes (This is why religion is so subject to corruption!). Now, if we are going to talk about Lent being a time of conversion and penance, let me apply that to the two major groups that have occupied Western Christianity—Catholics and Protestants. Neither one has really let the Word of God guide their lives.
Catholics need to be converted to giving the Scriptures some actual authority in their lives. Luther wasn’t wrong when he said that most Catholics did not read the Bible. Most Catholics are still not that interested in the Bible (historically they did not have the printing press, nor could most people read, so you can’t blame them entirely). I have been a priest for 42 years now, and I would sadly say that most Catholics would rather hear quotes from saints, Popes, and bishops, the current news, or funny stories, if they are to pay attention. If I quote strongly from the Sermon on the Mount, they are almost throwaway lines. I can see Catholics glaze over because they have never read the New Testament, much less studied it, or been guided by it. I am very sad to have to admit this. It is the Achilles heel of much of the Catholic world, priests included. (The only good thing about it is that they never fight you like Protestants do about Scripture. They are easily duped, and the hierarchy has been able to take advantage of this.)
If Catholics need to be converted, Protestants need to do penance. Their shout of “sola Scriptura” (only Scripture) has left them at the mercy of their own cultures, their own limited education, their own prejudices, and their own selective reading of some texts while avoiding others. It has become laughable, as slavery, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia have lasted authoritatively into our time—by people who claim to love Jesus! I think they need to do penance for what they have often done with the Bible! They largely interpreted the Bible in a very individualistic and otherworldly way. It was an evacuation plan for the next world—and just for their group. Most of Evangelical Protestantism has no cosmic message, no social message, and little sense of social justice or care for the outsider. Both Catholics and Protestants (Orthodox, too!) found a way to do our own thing while posturing friendship with Jesus.
jjblack on February 9th, 2012

Thoughts on Life and Wisdom at age 60

5:30 AM: Feb, 9 2012


I jotted these thoughts down early this morning, before work, thinking about what I might say if asked that question, which older people should be asked,  “What are some things you have learned over the years”. Rather than just stutter and blurt something out I thought I would just write some thoughts down.  They are fresh and rough so be easy on me. But here is what has popped into my head.  I am certain none of it is original except, as it has been applied to me.  Most wisdom is ageless. It is only the stories, times, and lives in which Wisdom is illustrated that changes.

Epistemological Humility (EH)

Ever since teaching philosophy I have be fascinated on and off with how we know what we know.  Studying this is kind of of like trying to stare at your own eyeballs.  It used to be a passion of mine.  But what we have learned in the past few decades in Neuroscience, Physics, Psychology and Medicine is nothing less than astounding and should cause us to be more humble in what we consider our certainties.  New frontiers are opening daily.  It is like a Copernican revolution every year these days.  So my advice is to hold your mind open and your beliefs a bit more lightly.  Not that you should abandon your dearly held beliefs every moment. But you may want to loosen up a bit about those things you seem to want to argue about most.  Don’t grip your views too tightly or you may be blinded from the new wonders that are being uncovered every day.  History is filled with periods of great change of core beliefs in science, religion, and the world.  We are in the midst of one of those periods right now. Pay attention.

Political Idolatry

I have never been much of a political animal.  So I am politically naive.  My advice is to avoid zealots who have no sense of humility or humor.  There is always a middle way that honors people first and ideology second.  Much to many peoples surprise Jesus was not an American Republican or Democrat.  He represented God to everyone and refused to be pushed into a “them and us” mentality.  He somehow managed to tailor his earthly ministry to precisely the need of the individual he encountered at the moment – from the rich young ruler to the woman at the well.  Not sure how you run a government that way but, as I said, I am politically naive.  The idea here is to not make your politics an idol.  Maybe God has something else in mind.

Friends and Relationships

Friends are more important than you realize.  Cultivate them carefully.  As you grow older you learn to value those who give you insight, offer other viewpoints in the context of EH (see above), and offer much needed support in those inevitable rough times.  Value these people.  Sometimes they will be overwhelmed with other concerns, and so will you, but keep the relationship going. You have much to learn and have more need of these angels in your life than you know.  Not everyone can be your true friend but when one shows up, recognize them, and value them for all they are worth.  Be a friend to them as well. Bring them richly into your life.


Like friends, don’t take them for granted.  They are Gods way of cultivating you to become the creation He intended.  They are connected to you in a way that no other human can be. These people are also in the process of becoming what God intended.  So the complex dance of growing into yourself, in the context of these others growing into themselves, is precious. Enjoy it while you can. It’s a complicated dance. Pay attention and at the same time relax and enjoy.  Deeply value them for who they are now and who they are becoming.  It can be quite a ride.  It will no doubt drive you to your knees sometimes, but real love is born there as well.  These relationships are gifts that come with both tragedies and triumphs – there is no better teacher.


Those of you who are lucky enough to find a spouse who understands what I said about family and values those gifts, and is crazy enough, of all things, to also value and love you, make sure love them as deeply as you can.  There is no greater gift.  No other relationship has such inherent power to transform you, and penetrate deeply inside of you, to tease out your tendermost heart and heroic self. Of all your relationships, this one is the most precious, and the one most filled with the necessary nitro to clear away the hard carbon around that gemstone inside of you. While at the same time, is able to touch and release the most tender and deepest parts of you.  Value that person like no other. For you they are the most precious relationship you can have on earth.  There will be times you question this – but never forget that it is part of the process and in all humility give each other room to grow.  You will be granted rewards and possibilities no other relationship can offer.


I have been fortunate to be able to build and sell, succeed and fail, at several businesses.  I love being an entrepreneur (most of the time). Business is another context for learning about life.  People depend on you there.  You depend on them. Relationships are critical to getting things done.  Most of my work has been in more “informational” intangible soft products, so my view may be tainted.  However, in these businesses, people are your real resource. Human capital is your real capital.  Managing that is no easy task.  Management styles differ as much as people do. Studies have shown that, as far as bottom line results go, no one management style consistently gets better results than another.  I believe this has to do with the ability of “good” managers to be congruent with their own style, strengths, and abilities.  Getting clear on this is crucial. Build teams allowing each member to contribute their own unique style and strengths. Find out what gives them energy and flow. They will love working with you.  Great teams make great companies.  So my advice is to focus on your strengths not weaknesses. Have your team members do the same.  To get the most out of yourself let the weaknesses go and cultivate and exercise your strengths.  Notice when you feel “in flow” and what makes you happy in your work… even when it is hard.  Take note of what most energizes you and do more of that.   You will be happier, get more done, and probably contribute more to the world as a result.


“People are different”.  Nancy and I have said this to each other many times when observing the many people who come and go in our lives.  You will be happier and more free if you let them be so.  They are unique.  They see things differently. They do life differently.  Maybe, they have something to teach you.  You don’t have to buy in.  You don’t have to believe as they do.  You don’t even have to like them.  They are who they are -  each with their own fingerprint place in the world. For whatever reason, you may find that your life is intersecting with them now.  Enjoy what you can, let go what you can’t, and if you feel led, ask God to work with them in their differentness.  And then ask Him, at the same time, to work with yours…

One more gem about people we have learned to be true over and over again - “When someone shows you who they are – believe them”


One regret I have is that with all the opportunities I had to speak worldwide, and the business opportunities that took me down many different paths, meeting people at all levels of business,  I did a horrible job of keeping this network of contacts alive. Some people are naturals with this.  The “connectors” named in Malcolm Gladwells “Tipping Point” book.  It is a skill that can be cultivated.  Today, the tools are abundant and handy to make this much easier – amazing social media and now our ubiquitous smart phones.  But, even if I had those over the years, I am not sure I still would have been diligent about it.  I was not as keen on the power of “we” as I am now.  The network you develop is another source for your success in life.  Cultivate it. This may have something to do with that strengths thing I mentioned earlier.  But, one piece of wisdom I would pass along is to pay attention to maintain your network. You will meet and have the opportunity to work with lots of interesting people with differing skills and networks of their own.  It is the portfolio of people you have connected with. It becomes your base of influence and your reach into opportunities everywhere.  Be genuine about it.  Be yourself.  Then give as you can.  Make a note when you think of it.  Make that call.  Make the recommendation.  Introduce people to each other. Write the letter. Do the favor, when asked. Support them. This will greatly increase your own personal reach and influence. You will be happier and experience more opportunities for friendship, business, and I am sure, more fun.

Everything Belongs

Your life may not have turned out the way you imagined.  You may have had tragedies and things you wish had not happened in your life.  Regret for things you did that you now wish you hadn’t. Things others did that you wish they didn’t. Circumstances occurred that were out of your control. Good things happened too but we tend to remember the other things first.  No matter what happened, whatever it was, somehow, someway, if you can back further and further away from it, you will find there is a sense that everything belongs. Not that you will fully understand it.  Just a restfulness, a peace in it.  In God’s world somehow, someway, all things work together for good.  Trust that.  Even in the dark times.  I rarely read a book more than once.  One book I keep coming back to read is entitled the same as this heading: “ Everything Belongs”. It is written by the Franciscan priest  – Richard Rhor.  I highly recommend it.


If you focus on things you are grateful for every day, make a practice of it, studies have shown that you will indeed feel more happy.  We have a tendency to do the opposite.  Stop that. This gratitude practice will indeed bring more well being into your life.  Just the mere recollection of the good things actually changes your whole physiology.  So take this practice for a spin and see for yourself.


Lastly I have to mention a practice that has transformed me in the last few years.  I wish I had discovered it when I was younger.  We tend to live our lives at the circumference.  On the outside.  When my life was being deeply hit by forces beyond my control in my business world, and all my external props were being kicked out from under me, I was forced to go deeper.  Deeper in my relationship with God, with my family, and with myself.  Unfortunately it seems that it takes this kind of thing to force us there. After some success in life, (which we all need for some foundation) it seems that only failure can teach us what we really need to know.  I remember telling my Son before he went off to college, after a long conversation about being young and its gifts of youth, strength, beauty, – all of which I prefaced with a caveat that he would not fully understand what the heck I was talking about at this stage of his life – that the reason I was sharing all this was I hoped that he would have just a bit of wisdom which would give him an edge as he went out into the world.  Just some understanding and wisdom which could transform all the attributes of his youth we just discussed, and give him just enough of an edge over his peers to use it well and succeed.  Wisdom is seeing just a bit into the future of life without having to go through the experience the hard way. That is why we call some elders the “Wise Ones”. My son admitted that he did not understand everything I was trying to communicate but maybe just a little of it.  So hopefully here is some wisdom to serve you wherever you are right now in your life.  Don’t wait for the failure and tragedy to take you there.  Go deeper now.  Do not live in the circumference of life only.  The practice which has helped me do this is called “Centering Prayer”.  Other traditions have meditation or some other practice which makes us “check out” of the external and go inward to that place of soul or quiet which is unique to humans.  A place away from the noise and demands.  A place without boundaries.  As a Christian, my tradition has language around prayer, soul and spirit.  That place where God meets with us and we intend to spend time with Him in quiet.  That internal intersection of God, spirit and soul where God meets with us.  This place is vast and resourceful.  Go there and be refreshed, recharged, and “centered” to become what God wants you to become.  I try to spend some time there everyday.  Some days and weeks I am more successful practicing this than others.  The key to understand is that there is a reason YOU uniquely are here on earth. That REAL you, not the one all dressed up for meetings and business and to impress others. Spending time in that silent place sometimes is the only way to get connected with your unique self. The self God created you to be.  What goes on in there is hard to explain but you will, over time, be transformed.  You can’t spend time, intend to spend time, asking God to, join you in that silence, without changing.  My prayer life had taken on a new flavor with this practice.  I talk less and listen more.  I encourage you quit living only on the circumference of your life but to go deeper, toward the center of your life, discovering more about your authentic self.  Authentic as opposed to the ego or false self which we spend a lifetime cultivating.  This false ego self will hate this practice because in doing it, it will lose it’s power over YOU. When doing this practice you, the real you, does not need to be present to anyone except God.  He knows you as you really are anyway so there cannot be any pretense there. Doing this regularly you may just discover that the new centered you – the authentic you – the one that needs only be present to God – is really not so new at all.

For more on centering visit:

jjblack on February 6th, 2012

“To pray, I think, does not mean to think about God in contrast to thinking about other things, or to spend time with God instead of spending time with other people. Rather, it means to think and live in the presence of God. All our actions must have their origin in prayer. Praying is not an isolated activity; it takes place in the midst of all the things and affairs that keep us active. In prayer a “self-centered monologue ” becomes a “God-centered dialogue.”

Henri Nouwen