Greed: The Insidious Character Flaw of TVA’s Executives

Greed: The Insidious Character Flaw of TVA’s Executives

Greed is a character flaw that runs deep within the heart of America and one that we see too often in business, government and individuals. The sin of Greed is a powerful force that can easily infect us individually, and it’s one I have struggled with at times.  So we must constantly be on guard against it.  But we should also call it out when we see it reflected in our government and its institutions. 

In case you missed it, TVA just filed suit against several individuals to gain access to their farmland “for the taking of a temporary right under the power of eminent domain and award of just compensation to the owners and parties of interest.”  It has been reported that the owners of the subject land are not interested in selling their land.

TVA’s lust for the property of others is a sin. But an agency or organization does not sin on its own. Rather, sin is committed by individuals. So when we see an organization, agency or government committing insidious acts, we must resist the temptation to blame the entity alone.  Rather, we must look to its members, executives or representatives. Never let this truth pass you by. 

There are individuals within TVA who are individually responsible for the Greed that is being displayed in their unjust desire to take and to steal what is not theirs.  These individuals may hide behind the three letter agency name they represent, but they are personally responsible, and to blame, for the evil acts of the agencies they lead.  And yes, taking another individual’s personal property without their consent, otherwise known as stealing, is evil. 

There is a second truth that we can learn from TVA’s latest strategy. Do not be deceived into thinking that just because courts might rule that something is “legal” it is then just or right.  This includes ruling that a developer, agency or government can take land from an unwilling party. 

Declaring something to be “legal” has never set the bar of what is right, nor righteous. Whenever man establishes an arbitrary standard, that standard can always be reversed or revised, thus affirming the truth that man’s laws are fallible. 

There is only one standard that is true, right, infallible, and righteous. And God has weighed in on all matters of significance and consequence, including Greed in general, and taking someone else’s property in specific.  There are literally countless passages in the Bible that instruct us about this topic, including the ten commandments, moving boundaries, taking the property of the weak, and so many more.  To be clear, all of us are “weak” when compared with the multi-billion dollar budgets, holdings, and resources of TVA.

So, when it comes to TVA’s abusive effort to take what is not theirs, using the power of a court, via the threat and cost of a lawsuit, rest assured that evil intentions are at work. But remember that these decisions are not simply some impersonal government agency’s policies at play.  Rather, know that it is a man or a woman, or even several men and women, who are willfully conspiring to take what is not theirs to advance their own selfish desires.  

In this specific case, I have met some of the individuals responsible for this Greed via TVA. Some are members of local, bible-teaching churches. Yet their faith is at odds with their choices in their workplace.  They are doing to their “neighbor” what they would never want done to themselves.  In so doing, these men and women are violating a foundational value that they would likely say they embrace.  What a sad reality.  But they are not to be condemned but rather challenged in a respectful and even prayerful manner.  We should all remember that we are all frail and too often struggle with our own shortfalls and character flaws.  But we must still share truth regardless. 

Just as God judged Ahab and Jezebel for stealing a citizen’s farmland several thousand years ago, I believe He will judge these men and women who are seeking to steal the farmland of several of their local citizens and their families.  Since God is “the same yesterday, today and forever,” He does not change with the whims of man, or the rulings of a court.  His Truths remain, as does His Justice.

So the good news is this.  Sooner or later Justice will prevail, and Greed will be exposed and punished.  Of course, most of us like to see justice prevail in the short-term though. So if you agree with these sentiments, please share this article with others.  Perhaps God’s Truth, or a groundswell of opposition in our community, will cause the men and women responsible for this latest TVA effort to reverse their course of Greed.  

“Listen to me, you who know right from wrong, you who cherish my law in your hearts…”  (Isaiah 51:7)

The Tyranny of the Dot

The Tyranny of the Dot

the-tyranny-of-the-dot

There’s a quote that is attributed to President Eisenhower that asserts, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”  His quote mirrors this more popular saying: “the urgent is enemy of the important.”  Both quotes speak to the fact that too often many of us focus our resources and time on matters of an urgent nature, which invariably leads to ignoring or devaluing the important.

dot-arrowTo illustrate the concept graphically, I have diagrammed a dot and an arrow.  The dot represents the urgent, and the arrow signifies the important.  Consider that a dot is short term and finite while an arrow is long-term, and even infinite in some instances, which we’ll explore further below.  

This dot and arrow issue is a problem that is seen in human nature across time. Yet, as much as we struggle with this, it’s very difficult to elevate the priority of the important.  There’s one story in ancient Jewish history that illustrates this point as well as any.  

You may recall the story of Esau and Jacob, twin brothers who were polar opposites, and frequently seemed to be at odds with each other.  One day, after Esau had been out hunting for an extended period of time, he returned home famished.  In fact, he was so hungry that he was willing to sell his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew.  In Jewish tradition, the birthright was reserved for the eldest son and offered significant prestige, the carrying on of the family name, the largest portion of the family inheritance and much more.  But Esau, living in the dot of the here and now, devalued his birthright, the arrow, and bartered it to his brother Jacob, for a fleeting meal.  While he eventually regretted his decision, there was no reversing the course on which he had set his life. His urgent choice permanently sacrificed the important.

As I’ve thought about the tyranny of the dot versus the arrow, I’ve contemplated how often the urgent trumps the important, as reflected in the following examples.

Daily Routines

How often have you set out to complete a number of tasks in a given day when all of a sudden an “urgent” matter appears, out of left field?  As quickly as the urgent new priority presents itself, the important tasks that you had committed to completing take a back seat.  All of a sudden the important is displaced by the urgent, the end of the day comes, and few, if any, of the important goals are realized.  The tyranny of the dot, the urgent, replaces the arrow of the important. 

Business

Have you ever been tempted to shortcut quality in favor of quantity in your business or job?  This is one of those choices we often face in our business or careers, where the urgent can crowd out the important.  The demand to meet a quota, or the need to achieve certain quarterly goals can put us in the predicament of choosing the dot versus the arrow.  Will we sacrifice the long-term results to realize some short term gains?  If so, we will succumb to the tyranny of the dot.

Politics

If ever there was a profession that was known for its short-sightedness, it is politics and politicians. It seems that short term wins are all that a politician cares about, at least the vast majority of them.  

How will the next vote benefit me?  Can this constituent contribute to my campaign?  What position can I take on an issue that will most benefit me?  But in asking all of these questions, the professional politician reveals he has very few laudable values or principles that guide him.  His dot is the urgency of self-promotion, always seeking the most advantageous path to further his position.  Sadly though, whenever this occurs, the arrow, which could be campaign promises or resolute principles, can so quickly be sacrificed.

Eternity

While all the aforementioned examples are significant, they do not begin to rival the importance and priority of eternity.  Perhaps the graphic of the dot and arrow best illustrates this when we compare the dot of our “three score and ten” years on earth with the unending arrow of eternity.  Too often, for most of us, we are so easily distracted with the urgency of living in the dot during our short years here on earth, that we tragically short-sell the importance of living for the arrow of eternity, an era when 70 years will seem as a few short seconds and a thousand years will be like a few hours.  

There is a verse that warns, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?”  Yet the sad reality is that too many will do exactly that.  We will live for the here and now, for the dot of our earthly existence but in so doing, we sacrifice the arrow, the opportunity to experience an eternity with our Creator, who wills that all mankind join Him.  

The Christmas season is a time when many of us take some moments to review the past year, our failures and successes, regrets and achievements.  And with the New Year just around the corner, it is also a time when we set new goals, and establish plans to achieve them.  As we spend this time of reflection and goal setting, I pray that we will resist the tyranny of the dot and commit ourselves to living for the arrow.  In our daily routines, resist the temptation to fall prey to those urgent demands.  In our businesses or careers, I trust we will never lose focus on the long-term and excellence.  If you’re a politician, recommit yourself to your guiding principles and resist the temptation to self-promote, truly seeking the good of others.  

But most importantly, regardless of whether you are a millennial, a baby boomer, or somewhere in between, I trust that you will live your life for the arrow of eternity. If you’re uncertain how to do this, I would encourage you to check out this website:  Are You a Good Person?

The dot will soon be over for each of us.  Will we be prepared for the arrow?  I pray we will.  Merry Christmas!

Mark

Time: Best Friend or Worst Enemy?

Time: Best Friend or Worst Enemy?

time-best-friend-worst-enemy

1… 24… 168… 8,760

You might be wondering what the above numbers have in common?  Or perhaps what they even have to do with you?  Of course, you may have also already figured them out.

The truth is, the above numbers apply to all of us equally.  Over the next 60 minutes, 1 hour will tick away.  This time tomorrow, 24 hours will have passed.  One week from now, 168 hours will have come and gone.  And this time next year, 8,760 hours will be in the books.  

So big deal, right?  The same has held true since the beginning of Time.  

Some might say time is neutral.  That it is neither good or bad.  Neither friend or foe.  

I say differently.

Time is either your best friend or worst enemy.  

And you get to decide which it is.  If a friend, you are using it.  If an enemy, it is using you.

Let me illustrate.

Have you ever slept in, and when you finally got up the gumption to get up, you just kind of rolled out of bed, spent your morning meandering around the house, and never really got around to doing much?  You were just kind of lazy but you justified it by saying you deserved it.  Before you knew it, it was mid-afternoon and you really hadn’t accomplished much of anything.  By then though, you felt you needed a nap, because you were just tired from not doing much.  So you snoozed a little more, and it was soon supper time.  The day was nearly spent, and if you even bothered to think back, you’d have to admit you did absolutely nothing.  Nada!  Zip!

Now that may be an extreme example, and if you’re like me, you cannot think back to a time when you had a day that went like that.  But you, like I, might be willing to admit instances in your life where an hour here or an hour there was “spent” on meaningless or non-productive activities.  Sure, they may not have been “lazy” things, but they accomplished nothing of substance nonetheless.  Can someone say Facebook?  Or the 2nd or 3rd football game in a day?  Or the fourth episode of your favorite sitcom?  Watching Dancing with Stars?  Or surfing eBay on the web?  Or…

Of course, in and of themselves, none of the activities described above, or similar ones that might come to your mind, are evil, bad or hurtful.  Well, maybe not…  But here’s the point.  Each time I’m engaged in one of them, an hour or two will pass.  And the question is:  Did I use time, or did it use me?  Were you in control of that four letter word?  

That is the key.  Are you controlling time or is it just happening to you?  When you find yourself in a scenario where stuff happens, things just seem to occur with no proactive control or input into what is happening, especially as it relates to your schedule, then time is controlling you.  But when you and I are deliberate, scheduled, and focused on a definitive timetable for our day and week, then we are in control of time.  And rather than time being our worst enemy, it becomes our best friend, our ally.

Time is what enables us to complete tasks, goals and projects.  Time enables you to build your dream home, deploy a detailed business plan, raise a loving family, deepen relationships with loved ones, redevelop a failed inner city, restore a failing nation to its once admired status and more.  It matters not the size of the task.  Time can and will be your friend and ally if you harness it to bend to your plans versus allowing it to choke us as we remain mired in mediocrity, laziness or simply poor planning and stewardship.  

Time is neutral.  So you will decide how it plays out in your life.  Friend or Foe?  Asset or Liability?  

You decide.  Don’t delay.  1, 24, 168 or 8,760 hours from now, will tell the story.

Mark

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Do Your Failures Haunt You? Two Strategies to Overcome Them

Do Your Failures Haunt You? Two Strategies to Overcome Them

Do Your Failures Haunt You

If you’re alive, then you’ve failed.  And if you’re honest, you’ve failed a lot.  I know I have.  In fact, I’m confident that my failures outnumber my successes by a multiple of many.  

But the truth is that you and I are not alone.  In fact, we are in great company.  The greatest athletes, entrepreneurs, and even religious leaders will all admit, if they’re honest, that their failures are numerous.

Of course, there are many types of failures.  There are athletic failures, such as missing the winning shot in the NBA finals.  And there are business failures, such as filing bankruptcy when the entrepreneur can no longer satisfy his creditors.  There are parental failures, where we may find we have dropped the ball in the raising of our children.  And there are personal defeats, where we fail to live up to a standard we set for ourselves.  There are moral failures, where one may violate a professional or personal relationship.  And there are spiritual failures, where our behavior or choices fall short of the standard established by God Himself.

The first step in overcoming a failure is to acknowledge it, seek forgiveness from those you have wronged, and then put the mechanisms in place to avoid repeating those same failures again, and again, and again.

But when you’ve done this, it’s possible and perhaps even likely that the failures in your life occasionally or even frequently raise their ugly heads to remind you of your shortcomings.  It’s human nature for us to replay them over and over in our minds.

It hurts to fail just as it hurts to get thrown from a horse.  But if you are going to learn to ride that bucking bronco, there’s only one way to do so and that is to climb back on and try again.

In Psalm 40:12 we read this from King David, “For troubles surround me, too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head. I have lost all courage.” That’s a lot of failures, and we see what happened when David was focused on his sins.  He couldn’t see his way out and he lost all courage.

Bottom line, he was remembering and rehearsing his failures and the more he did, the weaker and more discouraged he became.

We also see there were those who were more than willing to remind David of his failures in the following verse, “May those who try to destroy me be humiliated and put to shame.  May those who take delight in my trouble be turned back in disgrace.  Let them be horrified by their shame, for they said, ‘Aha! We’ve got him now!’”

Note that if we’re not reminding ourselves of our failures, there is usually someone in our life who is more than willing to do so.  And their intent is generally malicious and destructive.

But thankfully, we also read that David found his strength in God when he said, “Please Lord, rescue me!  Come quickly, Lord, and help me.

Like David, we must recognize that when our failures seem to overwhelm us, whether business, personal, moral or spiritual, there is One to whom we can turn.  Doing so requires humility, dependence, and repentance, particularly if the failure is a violation of God’s law.  But when we humble ourselves, and seek God’s forgiveness, strength and deliverance, it is then that we can regain the courage that was lost by focusing on our failures.  

There is another step to be taken in overcoming your failures which we learn from another great historical figure, the Apostle Paul, when he shares, “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…

We must bury the past and turn our focus to the future, knowing that what is done is done.  The only chapter of our lives that you and I can still affect is the one yet unwritten.  So forget those past failures and turn your focus to the future.

So if your failures have haunted you and your courage has been waning, practice the strategies that David and Paul both used: seek God’s deliverance and strength, and forget the past while focusing on the future.  Doing so will unleash a new sense of optimism and hope as you fulfill the purpose that God has for your life.

Mark

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Knowing the Facts is Easy but…

Knowing the Facts is Easy but…

Knowing the Facts is Easy but...

“Knowing the facts is easy. Knowing how to act based on the facts is difficult.”  Han Feizi

A good friend and mentor shared the above quote with me this last week and it got me thinking…  In this age of Google and Siri, it has become commonplace to find out the answer to nearly any question we have.  No longer do we need to go to a bookshelf, pull out a volume of the World Book encyclopedia, to find out the answer to a problem we might be having. 

Case in point.  A couple days ago I was struggling to remember the name of the runner from Jamaica who just won gold for the third time in the Olympics in the 100 meter race.  So I picked up my phone, and asked my digital assistant: “Siri, who is the world’s fastest man?”  In just moments I had the answer along with more facts than I ever asked for:  Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man.

Yet, with our 21st century capacity to know the facts on nearly any subject matter known to man in mere seconds, what has not changed for mankind is the ability to know how to act based on the facts.  In fact, it remains just as difficult today as it was for our ancestors thousands of years ago.

The truth is, it matters not whether we are talking about our personal life, business, political choices, moral dilemmas, or spiritual quandaries, we often know the facts of a matter, but struggle to make the right choices based on those facts.

Uncertainty

There are times when we know the facts, but the proper response to the facts is difficult to discern.  It may be that the proper choice is not totally clear.  Or it could appear that there are pros and cons to all the various options.  So discerning which is the best option can be difficult. 

This can occur when we are too close to the matter, or our experience with the facts at hand is limited.  When this happens, a second set of eyes, a new perspective, greater wisdom, or even a personal coach, can bring clarity to the matter, resulting in the proper choice coming into focus.  So we should never hesitate to bring mentors, counselors or trusted advisors into the picture, whether in our personal, business or spiritual life.  

Conscience 

We’ve all heard the phrase, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.”  Well, so is a conscience.  Our God-given “inner voice” can serve as a guide in leading us to the proper decision in a matter.  While this is true, at times we choose to ignore or question the voice.  We know what we ought to do, but we resist doing so.  The sad reality of this scenario though is that if we do this often enough, at some point our conscience will grow weaker and weaker, to a point that it no longer serves as a voice of discernment in our lives.  And what was designed into us as a guide can over time lose its influence, and even grow silent.

There’s a passage in Romans 7 that speaks specifically to this quandary:

“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Instead, I do what I hate… I want do do what is good, but I don’t.  I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.”

Situational Ethics

We’re all familiar with the philosophy “the end justifies the means” and most would likely reject it. But the truth is that many of us will at times embrace this reasoning when it can benefit us personally.  The opening quote of this post says, “Knowing how to act based on the facts is difficult.”  If I were to re-write the quote I would revise it to say, “Knowing how to act correctly based on the facts is difficult.”

Situational ethics can frequently lead us to a justifiable option, but it may be the wrong choice.  My set of facts may reveal that I am broke and don’t know how I’m going to put gas in my tank.  While I’m in the break room at work I find a $20 bill laying on the counter.  No one is around so I justify taking the cash because no one will ever know, “finders keepers, losers weepers” or some other rationalization.  I need to put gas in my tank to get home to my family, so I’m ok with doing the wrong thing.  So that $20 is now mine.  Simple.  The end justifies the means.

We know better but we justify our decision, and thus we act based on the facts, but our action is flawed and incorrect.  James 4:17 addresses this particular dilemma quite succinctly:  “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

At the end of the day, it’s critical to look beyond the facts and seek to respond to those facts in the correct manner.  Whether we seek out a coach or mentor, or we respond to the truth we know to do, or we resist the temptation to justify inappropriate behavior, if we want to succeed and grow in life, we must all too frequently make the tough but difficult choice.

Are there other ways you’ve found to do what is right but difficult?  If so, send me an email or post a comment below and let me know your thoughts.  

Mark

Are You a Sheep or a Wolf?

Are You a Sheep or a Wolf?

Are you a Sheep or Wolf-

 

“The world is full of sheep and wolves.  To protect the sheep you need to learn to fight like a wolf.”

This last week I had the opportunity to participate in a unique four day survival course that my wife and I hosted at our property, Liberty Ridge Ranch.  The course was instructed by some of our military’s finest from the US Special Forces, Navy Seals, and Delta Force.  My good friend Omar Hamada, MD, a veteran Major of the US Army Special Forces, developed the unique survival course along with several other elite US military professionals. 

Having just completed the construction of our new 2A Shooting Range, designed by one of the Special Forces operators, I was personally excited to not only host the program, but to also participate in it.  Who wouldn’t enjoy a prolonged period of firing a 9mm Glock 19, learning many other basic survival skills and spending four days with our nation’s finest?  So many things stood out from the course and perhaps I’ll take some time in another post to share them, but the opening statement above made a deep impression on me.  I’ll reiterate it here again:

“The world is full of sheep and wolves.  To protect the sheep you need to learn to fight like a wolf.”

To understand this quote, it’s important to identify some of the traits of sheep:

Sheep tend to follow other sheep.
Sheep are instinctively fearful.
Sheep like the familiar and resist change.
Sheep are not very intelligent.
Sheep have no sense of direction.
Sheep are defenseless.
Sheep are weak.
Sheep walk ignorantly to their death.

While sheep certainly have some positive qualities as well, for purposes of this post I’m focused on the traits above.   

On the other hand, wolves have the following characteristics:

Wolves are swift runners, reaching speeds of up to 25 mph.
Wolves are well equipped for hunting.
Wolves have a keen sense of smell, able to track their prey up to 300 yards away.
Wolves are not intimidated by animals larger than themselves and regularly hunt and kill animals many times their size.
Wolves are well equipped for the harshest of environments.
Wolves have a good sense of direction and maintain control over their territories.

As I consider the various characteristics of both these animals, I think there is a lot we can learn from them for many different areas of our life.

Personal

I think it’s safe to say that most Americans are closer to sheep than wolves.  Many people are quite comfortable following others.  They are seldom critical thinkers and are normally unwilling to contradict the popular beliefs, attitudes or accepted norms.  Fear is a common quality amongst most people resulting in them being unwilling to speak up or stand for unpopular beliefs.  They are quite comfortable with the status quo.  And truthfully, many folks are unwilling to continue to grow intellectually.  It’s not that they are incapable.  They just settle into the rut of living and don’t seek to grow beyond that rut.  All too often people wander through life, unsure where they are going, and unwilling to set goals and strive for them.  And sadly, so many folks are unable or unwilling to defend themselves from real or potential threats, if they are confronted with them.  

While all of these traits don’t apply uniformly or completely to all, I believe that too many Americans today reflect a disproportionate number of these traits.  Because of this reality, it’s incumbent that some learn to develop the qualities of wolves, including the ability to fight as them.  Equipping ourselves for the variety of threats that could surface at any given moment is a critical trait of a wolf.  Alertness to either our present surroundings, or trends that are developing, are a way that we can detect what may be over the figurative horizon.  By doing so we will not only mitigate the threat to us personally but also to those we love and care for, who embrace sheep-like qualities.

Business

In business, we find many sheep-like folks as well.  Too often employees, managers and even owners can settle into the rut.  Their aspirations falter.  Their dreams die.  And they fear change, risk and what others might think.  As a result, what they might have achieved falls by the way side. 

Meanwhile, the wolves in business, are all too willing and eager to pursue their symbolic prey, the goals they have set for themselves, their career or their business.  They understand that the hunt will be difficult, tiring and even fraught with instances of failure.  But they continue to press on, knowing that the one who doesn’t win is the one who never starts or simply gives up.  For wolves, failure is merely one step closer to success.  And through it all, the “wolf” style business person maintains a keen sense of direction and focus.  He is not overcome by the size of the struggles but rather he rallies his “pack” to help him in defeating the struggles.   

So while the sheep are easy prey and too often lose in business, the wolf is smart, keen, strategic and unstoppable, resulting in the business success he seeks.

Preparedness

In my recent article entitled “The Wildly Profitable Gift Shop on the Titanic: Our Response” I addressed the coming collapse and disaster that is front and center for America.  While the facts seem incontrovertible, the vast majority of Americans are behaving as sheep.  Sadly, just a few of our citizens exhibit the traits of a wolf.  If there is ever a time when America needs wolves it is now.  Yet, human nature exudes sheep-like qualities. Thus while the wolves prepare, the sheep will not. 

So when that day arrives you and your family can be prepared, to not only weather the storm, but to also reach out to the sheep in your life who were too fearful to acknowledge, too oblivious to discern, or too weak to prepare.  And in so doing, you can be a wolf that will ultimately protect those sheep around you who might have been providentially placed in your care.

So, I encourage you to regularly analyze your thoughts and behavior through the question “Are you a sheep or wolf?” and to seek to embrace the traits of a wolf, in your personal and business life.

Mark

References:
schoolworkhelper.net/wolves-habitat-characteristics-behaviors/
www.heraldmag.org/2004/04ja_8.htm
www.preacherscorner.org/sheep2.htm
Photo credits:
Wolf: Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_erika8213′>erika8213 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Sheep: Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_mihaitamasila’>mihaitamasila / 123RF Stock Photo</a>