My wife, Gail, told me a very interesting story the other day. Twenty-five years ago she was participating in a group workshop. As the workshop got started, the leaders gave the ground rules for the next five days. One of the ground rules over this time period was: “No side talking during the session.” As the workshop went on, she found herself sitting next to another participant, Henry Conyers, and tried to strike up a conversation with him. He in turn gave her a stern look as to say, “Didn’t you hear the ground rules?”

At the end of the workshop, the organizers asked who had held to all the ground rules. Henry was 1 of 2 people, out of 200, that had. When pushed by the workshop leaders (who in Gail’s opinion were appearing to make Henry wrong for following the rules,) Henry was asked if he was anal – did he always do what he was told? Gail said Henry’s response was simple. “It was a requirement and I wanted to make sure I got everything I could out of this workshop. It wasn’t easy for me to pay for the workshop in the first place, and I wasn’t going to cheat myself by not having the discipline to follow directions.” Gail said the entire room of participants, including the workshop leaders, went silent, because they had to recognize that Henry had demonstrated the discipline to hold to the principles outlined at the beginning of the workshop. For Henry, it wasn’t about the rules; it was about the principle of self-discipline.

Discipline is something I am personally working on. Writing this Blog and other Blogs is part of my overall discipline development. I’ve always had great ideas, but not necessarily the discipline to see them through or just follow the conscience. For me “Ask the Conscience” has been a gift. The incarnation of my writing coincides with the changes that we are all feeling. Conscience, money and luvv all go together. There are opportunities to win, but we have to be willing to participate in the game.

What I really luvv about this period in my life is that everywhere I turn there are many opportunities to receive inspiration. I probably spent the last few days, worrying about money, how little of it I had, what I had to do next to get some and if the economy was going to claim me as one of its many victims. I should have cued into the word “victim” right away, but I didn’t. I was sitting in my den, and going though my Tivo listings, (which is still, in my opinion, one of the greatest innovations of my generation) and I came across a recording of Larry King.

It was as if the conscience said, “Okay, Jerome, you need a lift, so I will provide you with a demonstration of what discipline looks like.” King’s show, as most of his shows for the past month, was about President-Elect Obama’s transition and his various nominations. While that was informative, it wasn’t necessarily providing me with an alleviation of my fears. What did resuscitate my hope and faith was the panel of Magic Johnson (Hall of Fame basketball player and CEO of Magic Johnson enterprises), Steve Wynn (Casino Developer) and Eric Schmidt (CEO of Google and a member of Obama’s economic transition team).

The discussion centered on the state of the economy and ideas they had for assisting the newly defined “Main Street” through these tough economic times. The conversation focused on three basic concepts that the three panelists brought to the table—Innovation, Investment in people and the Discipline it takes to get through tough times. It was so refreshing to hear, because out of all the conversations that are going on in Washington and on television, these comments seemed the most personal and individual.

At a time when the economy is on a depressive spiral, bringing with it an anxiety ridden public, it’s refreshing to see a demonstration of possibility. Wynn said, “I am investing in people, hiring 5000 employees in his new hotel “Encore” and not having any layoffs, while building for the long term”. He is doing this in face of a downturn in tourism and business conferences. He is also fortunate not to have a lot of debt as he structured his company that way. Part of what we are going through is similar to a detox. Our country and the world economy are debt-toxic and part of what is going on is a spiritual reorganization of our economic system. He went on to say that we are in a period of adventure and uncertainty – and that is okay.

“It’s okay once and a while in life not to know what to do. It’s okay to be stumped every once and a while and admit it. Too much change is happening right now for most people. Now is a time to cool it.”

–Steve Wynn, Casino Developer

In listening to Wynn I could sense that this is a time to have acuity of vision and a long-term approach to managing and running your business. During this time, it is very important to eviscerate doubt in your ability to overcome difficult times, and accept the victory that is occurring. You may ask me, how can you say a victory has occurred? Think about it. The American Dream has been dismantled and in its place we have an opportunity to embrace the American Vision. America was born out of vision, some magic and a lot of hope. Damn, Columbus wasn’t even looking for America, he got lost and this is what he found. He and others had the vision to forge a country, a union and now a potentially stronger America.

Dreaming will no longer get it done. Vision, discipline, focus, money and conscience will. Listening to conscience will allow you to breath and take a focused approach to the issues we each face in our personal and business lives. Business is personal and the more we can accept that – the greater chance we have of winning.

As I mentioned in my previous article on “Business and Conscience”, it is imperative to be more inclusive of your staff’s ideas, thoughts and to have more exchanges with all levels of the organization. If you are the CEO, it is time to be as cool as a cucumber. As the CEO, Manager or lead staff person, collapsing under the storm will only send everyone else running for the survival boats. Staying connected with your sound judgment will clarify foresight and forge a new era of change and possibility for you and your teammates.

“We understand we don’t panic during times like this. We are all winners, we are used to winning and we know how to win even in tough times, and that is why all three of us will continue to win.”

–Magic Johnson (on speaking on his, Wynn’s, and Schmidt’s approach to business)

Sounds pretty much like American Spirit doesn’t it?

3 Comments

  1. I have thought about this story almost daily since first reading it:

    Gail, told me a very interesting story the other day. Twenty-five years ago she was participating in a group workshop. As the workshop got started, the leaders gave the ground rules for the next five days. One of the ground rules over this time period was: “No side talking during the session.” As the workshop went on, she found herself sitting next to another participant, Henry Conyers, and tried to strike up a conversation with him. He in turn gave her a stern look as to say, “Didn’t you hear the ground rules?”

    At the end of the workshop, the organizers asked who had held to all the ground rules. Henry was 1 of 2 people, out of 200, that had. When pushed by the workshop leaders (who in Gail’s opinion were appearing to make Henry wrong for following the rules), Henry was asked if he was anal – did he always do what he was told? Gail said Henry’s response was simple. “It was a requirement and I wanted to make sure I got everything I could out of this workshop. It wasn’t easy for me to pay for the workshop in the first place, and I wasn’t going to cheat myself by not having the discipline to follow directions.” Gail said the entire room of participants, including the workshop leaders, went silent, because they had to recognize that Henry had demonstrated the discipline to hold to the principles outlined at the beginning of the workshop. For Henry, it wasn’t about the rules; it was about the principle of self-discipline.

    Such is the excellence of those few among us who will hold for the luvv of holding. Very encouraging in a time of full throttle change.

    -eric

  2. I absolutely luvv the way you tell stories, and bring forward truth in your fun and funny way.

    I luvv you,
    Gail

  3. Jerome-

    Absolutely loved this story-I’ll share it with my management team as we approach the budget retreat and the crazy fiscal situation in California. Thanks for inspiring me to develop and enhance my disclipine!
    Debra

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