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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tragedy and hope -- the larger perspective

This image is from an article on business perspective in the blog Slow Leadership -- Articles on Returning Humanity to Working Life.

Yesterday I went with Vivian to a funeral -- for a nine year old boy. We knew the boy and his parents; Eric became his friend before the family received a transfer to the Philippines (his mother is employed with the Canadian foreign service). The child died naturally of a brain aneurysm, the underlying problem appears to have been from birth; the parents had the horrible task of getting the body home a half way around the world; challenging Jewish funeral rituals which call for the funeral and burial to be as soon as possible after death.

After the funeral I went to exercise -- I now work out five days a week; with commuting and so on, this exercise time costs me more than 20 days a year; but the payback is apparent -- despite a family history of diabetes, when staff at the drugstore within our local supermarket administered a computer-aided evaluation, my "health" age came up as 51 (though I am actually 54).

And in the evening, after a hockey practice, I took my son, and four of his nine and 10-year-old hockey playing friends, to a junior hockey game using box tickets gifted to me by Greater Ottawa Home Builders' Association Renovations Council chair Michael Martin. We laughed, consumed some pizza and soft drinks, and enjoyed a true"boy's night out".

Work? Where does business fit into all of this? I'll certainly be happy here to provide a positive reference for Michael Martin's business, Michael J. Martin Luxury Renovations. (Evidence of the power of gifting sporting tickets is here; and I respect that our relationship with Michael's business has been that of a supplier rather than client.) But there is a broader point; our businesses are only a part of our lives, and we need always to keep things in perspective. Only a few of us will have the misfortune of having to bury our child; but many will see marriages fail, avoidable health problems, and premature death. And others may, in the name of 'working for the business' lose that essential time for fun and family.

We cannot do much if anything about the hand of fortune or G-d. Living with healthy values of course we'll obtain support when we need it; I'm satisfied the unfortunate parents at the funeral know their community is with them in their grief, and the eulogies and remembrances at the funeral reinforced their lack of responsibility for the sad event which occurred in their family.

But we can do something about how we live our lives. Yesterday evening, after I returned home from the hockey game and had a chance to catch up on my work, I reviewed the financial/sales reports for the month (satisfactory if not overwhelming), and communications and reports from our employees during the day. The individuals in this business are 'getting it' -- they are innovating within their areas of responsibility, thinking creatively, responding to opportunity, respecting their clients, and communicating effectively with each other. The result: Our brand image is improving, and the business is growing. (And if anyone thinks I am doing the heavy lifting here, you are missing the point -- I'll certainly contribute my experience and guidance to the process; and do my best to select the right people to work in the organization -- but the employees themselves have the responsibility to get it right, and enjoy the rewards of work satisfaction and financial compensation.

The world is not perfect; bad things sometimes happen to good people, and your own business may be struggling under the weight of recessionary pressure. There are things we cannot change; but we all still have a responsibility to respect ourselves and others; including our health, personal relationships, and business integrity. Then, maybe, we'll find some element of real and lasting success and happiness.

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