Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Determining your currency!

"Currency" is an interesting word for it has many meanings and applications.  I love to teach about money to students for they, like most, feel that "currency" is money when in reality "currency" means a medium of exchange.  The dollar bill is a piece of paper with ink on it, right?  But the implied value of the United States of America to ensure the value of that worthless piece of paper makes that piece of paper "currency" that translates into  a means to buy and sell; money!
I was watching Amy Poehler, a comedian, being interviewed by Charlie Rose and she used the term "currency" in a statement that said, ..."I found my currency .."   That use intrigued me immediately for I realized that each of us in this village have our own unique "currency" or "medium of exchange" that allows us to walk this journey in differing degrees of comfort and joy.  As I sit here writing this I am thinking of so many of my former students, people I worship with, men I sing with, my family, etc and think of each as to what is their "currency" when it relates to how they interface with me or with others. What is it that makes each of us unique as individuals as it relates to interface with others on their own unique journey?
Some people have humor, some looks, some energy, some forcefulness, some drivers, some "sleepers," with others using increments from the tool chest of a culture.  Personalities form through DNA plus living and experiences and choice.  If you are happy, you are happy by choice. If you are sad or angry, you are sad and angry by choice, right? 
So, as I turn the microscope on myself to bring color to my "currency" palette, I believe my currency factors, those that facilitate interface with others as a medium of exchange within my culture, are many.  Seeking to be good at what I do, drive to understand, loving to see people succeed, getting angry when I see people choosing to not do their best to utilize their capability; all those are me.  As well, striving to let people know I am dependable and willing to assist is significant to me.  Music is a major component of my "currency" at this stage of my life but not for singing for the sake of singing. I love to sing for I have seen myriad examples of the work of singing that brings joy, brings comfort, brings release of the struggles of this life. I have seen smiles and tears, watched faces lift and heard many stories of how this song or that song changed their life. 
Teaching is another form of my "currency" I believe for I love teaching but less about teaching but more the challenge and the opportunity to effect change in people's lives that I know will stretch out to at least two generations.  My "currency" resides in building a trust that is capital for future growth and improvement.  Being tough, being frank, being straight, taking no excuses for poor performance, listening proactively; all of those are weapons in my arsenal to enhance my "currency" of changing a person's direction when I see so clearly the pathway they currently trod leading to where they do not need to be going.  Coaching them, encouraging them, loving them, being tough on them and finding never a finish line are parts of the diamond cluster of change forward that allows me to find true joy in what I get to do.
So I ask you the question .. what is your "currency" that allows you to engage others in your culture and how effective is it? Can it be made better? Is it worth the effort?
As I sit here rereading my words, I believe this blog is one of the more personally in-depth writings I have done for I found myself probing deeply into my heart to ascertain what it is that allows me to be and to do what I get to do and find such joy in that endeavor. I believe joy is the capstone of the effectiveness of your currency now that I think about it.  If you are not feeling a sense of joy in what you do regardless of effort, energy burn, work, then I would posit that perhaps you have not located and are not utilizing your true "currency" for it is others' response that provide the metric for your "currency", right?
A year of my life 1973-1974 was  a year invested in attending the Army's Officer Candidate School.  That year is a milestone in my life for that year taught me so much about myself under the stress and duress of having to perform with others 24/7.  I realized in that tough environment I flourished in the leadership realm for the tougher it got, the better I loved finding ways via my "currency" to get others to step up and deliver.  During my journey, there have been several "interventions" that have marked my journey but that year at the Alabama Military Academy shot a new azimuth for the life of Jim Williams.  I would imagine as you do your mirror searching, there are interventions or events that prompted azimuth change that altered the rest of your life to this moment.  Give that some thought, please!
So I challenge you to internalize my words and I would love your feedback on both my words and more importantly, on how you would describe your "currency," your medium of exchange with others, please!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Big Government

I was in our nation's capitol last week for a few vacation days. I have been there four other times in my life with spans of about ten years between each visit.  Many have heard me speak of my love for Washington for it is the most spectacular and imposing capitol in the world for I have experienced many of the others as well.  The architecture is simply amazing, the diversity of the people you see hurriedly traversing the streets gives you rich insight to the "melting pot" of our nation exampled so clearly in D.C.  The traffic, well, that is enough said on that topic for any sane human intentionally choosing to careen through the horn-blowing nut jobs of that city must be on something or needing to be on something such as NyQuil Extra Strength. Of course, I can say that as a stupid Ohio tourist for I chose to be part of the nut jobs two days finding myself absolutely exhausted by day's end when the NASCAR experience had ended.  Washington is, well, Washington; designed to impose and exert awe in those that visit as said by President George Washington himself. I say to Old George, "Mission Accomplished."
But to my real point this morning.  Having now been there and walked the streets, visited the amazing vistas and cemeteries and places of honor, one cannot help but be amazed by the greatness of our nation. But with no pun intended, the thing that stands out most to be over my four visits with ten years in between, is the almost unimaginable size of the government offices that comprise huge chunks of the landscape with the national bird, the crain, being evident in all directions meaning more and more being constructed.  When you realize, then, that the largest employer in the United States is the United States government funded, of course, by We the People, one must take pause and process what that means against the context of democracy and the free market economic system of this nation.  Let me state once more, THE LARGEST EMPLOYER IN THE UNITED STATES is our government and getting larger and funded more and more by monies borrowed from other nations because the tax revenues will not pay the full tab for the massive growth in government workers. . 
It is not my intent to bash an already bashed President but it is his watch now for going on nearly two terms.  We are truly, undeniably in a time of HUGE, not big, HUGE GOVERNMENT and all you need to do is visit Washington and see the physical evidence.  Mind you, I have former great students that are employed in Washington by We the People and I could not be happier with their career paths but it is staggering to see the workers in D.C. via the prism of demographics. 
I commented to my wife each day we were in the city walking around and especially the government offices that what you see is staggering numbers of twenty and thirty-somethings all in immaculate dark dress suits looking like covers from GQ magazine.  I say that not as a criticism but I can assume from that snapshot that We the People are paying well thus why the incalculable number of government workers that abound. Tourists are ample and that is to be expected but seeing workers no doubt in the various government office areas with so many more being constructed stands out to be as the most imposing change in the times when I was there before.
For example, to see the Department of Transportation with two huge office complexes devoted to the Federal Aviation Administration alone causes one to ponder why so much and so many.  I joked with my wife when looking at the cubicles of the ten floors of offices from across the street in seeing if we could actually see a single person at his or her cubicle desk working at their desktop. We found ONE in our cursory workplace analysis.  That may sound trivial but I think it portends a greater, darker concern.  Our government is just too big and too integrated to be managed efficiently is my belief.   Yes, we living in a great, diverse nation and Washington is a prism for that but what I witnessed subjectively indicates to me this growth that is taxpayer funded has lost control and the bureaucracy is growing and managing itself.  
Coming from a manufacturing world, you realize the easiest thing in the world is to throw more people or money at a problem thus you never actually have to manage the fix to the problem.  Finding root causes, ferreting out culprits and impediments to that fix and then attacking the cancer until it is eradicated is fundamental to management.  Constantly adding more and more and more people, offices, technology, etc, only exacerbates the issue; not fixes it and that is my assessment of what I witnessed last week.  I can now more fully understand why each election cycle some party will choose to try and gain entry to the White House by striving for smaller, more efficient government. To that challenge I say a hearty, Amen!
People that make things, sell things, generate cash flow is what drives an economy; not exponentially creating more taxpayer funded office workers. When you look at the formula for calculating the Gross Domestic Product:  GDP = C + I + G + (E-I), you begin to see what I am saying more clearly.  "C" is consumer spending which normally accounts for roughly 70% of the GDP equation and the "G" is government spending, a negative draw on the GDP, usually is about 15%. That figure today is nearly double that while consumer spending is at about less than 60%.  Consumer spending means people are working, earning and buying; all adding value to the GDP.  Government spending, taxpayer funded, is a negative and seeing Washington one can readily see the implication boldfaced.
I will close by stating frankly that I have been deeply concerned about our nation and our leadership for several years for all evidence I see adds to that concern domestically and globally. As I walked past the Capitol where the Presidential inauguration is conducted, I found myself more concerned than ever about this nation and its leadership and that is not a partisan comment. That new adage, too big to fail, that became so infamous during the economic collapse in 2008 is amplified in orders of magnitude when you see the unbelievable size of government in our capitol. And mind you I did not see all of it nor the outlying reaches of government in Langley, Andrews, etc. etc.  
If performance is measured in increments of efficiency, and it is in a free market system, we are losing that battle daily.  Thus, my concern about MY government is enhanced.  Maybe the next POTUS and Congress will seriously attack this cancer. But then, I walked down K Street where the lobbyist office complexes, (palaces) are housed so that hope was dashed for reform for the power of money is the fuel in the tanks of Washington. So I guess I will not hold my breath for real reform. But as the eternal optimist, one can hope can't one?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"Inevitable .." Same Sex Marriage

Yesterday was a day I will remember for a while.  The announcement or pronouncement is more like it that the Supreme Court of our nation decided not to hear same sex marriage cases from five states was received with great joy and celebration on the news networks, cities and towns in America; I was deeply saddened. I heard the CNN Jeff Toobin that covers the SCOTUS say that with the now thirty of the fifty States approving legally same sex marriage and that in those thirty States, sixty percent of the US population resides, that it is "inevitable" that all fifty States will allow same sex marriage in the near future negating the need for a SCOTUS ruling that would cover the United States; all fifty.  
As I processed that during the day yesterday, I found myself saddened and, yes, even more concerned with the direction, pace and trajectory of our nation at a societal level.  I think all of this came closer to my heart in getting to teach twenty-one high school seniors in a Christian school for the last three days. During that time I saw true hunger to learn housed in abundant manners and respect and sheltered in the arms of daily Bible readings to the entire school and corporate prayer from the Superintendent's office; the leadership!  In working with thousands of students, college level students, in the last ten years, I felt this sense of confliction in this small group of young people about face a tumultuous world with conflicting values and mores.  I think the world of every student I have been honored to work with over the last decade but I am not too old or too stupid not to realize via Facebook, emails, etc, that many of my former students are in gay relationships, living unmarried, etc, etc.  So sadly, that is rapidly becoming the new norm.
In thinking so much of the students for the time invested with each of them, it is so easy to simply forget or choose not to see that fact that some of their chosen lifestyles is quite frankly, morally wrong.  But it is the degree and depth of societal acceptance that is most concerning to me. So all the "inevitability" of our entire nation supposedly will acquiesce into allowing same sex marriages to become the norm just does not sit right with me at the heart. I know what Scripture says which is abundantly clear that marriage is a union between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreating and the biology and physiology our Creator devised allows that to take place.  Now when I see and hear of same sex, women, married and both are pregnant from sperm banks and with an already existing child or two adopted in that "family, I marvel at how in the world will any of those children define "normal" as they paths unfold on this life journey?
For me the SCOTUS decision was another ax chop to our society and, worse, had to have been another major disappointment to our Creator.  No wonder our jails and prisons are overflowing, Americans are killing each other at record levels, drug addiction grows and worsens each year, etc.  It is almost humorous to me, sadly, that if one takes a position on an issue based on Scriptural foundation on social media such as Facebook,  you can know the hailstorm of cynicism  and blatant animosity ushers forth toward the person taking a stand, such as myself, will be harsh, rude and disrespecful.  When I find myself in the cross hair of the criticism for taking a position I know to be right in God's Word, I solace myself from the withering fire with one of my life Principles: if you do what what you have always done, you get what you have always gotten and seconded with, if you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything.
Americans, generally I sense, have chosen to stop fighting for what is right in God's view and from His Word. Call me what you wish but I call myself a man that studies the Bible and seeks to live within the foundations and boundaries of those Words.  As I think about that group of twenty-one Christian-schooled young minds and the world they will face soon, I  can only commit to praying for their choices, their lives and their testimonies that will highlight the learning they have been blessed to receive in an environment seeking to do and to be in God's Will.
I will close with what I have written before:  Right is Right and Wrong is Wrong and no amount of Wrong will ever make a Wrong, Right!  So my critics can just have at it from that platform.  Someone had the audacity to indicate yesterday via a FB shot that the Constitution supersedes the Bible for the Constitution is more current and modern.  Lest we forget that the framers of the Constitution were men that sought God's Will and Words in the crafting of the Constitution.
Some time I just have to shake my head in wonder!