Beyond the Golden Rule

Posted: 6/2/2009 3:42:02 PM
The golden rule isn't good enough anymore. We have to be more conscious than that. Think of others.

The golden rule is not good enough.

Think of others. The world has more people in it than just you. What you do makes a difference. What you do affects other people. It affects the world.

Be conscious. Forget the rules. The rules are for the unconscious.

Do you want to follow the rules or do you want to make the rules or do you want to be immune to the rules? If you want to follow the rules, then rule number 1: Forget the Golden Rule. Here's your new rule:

Treat other people the way they want to be treated

That's right. Simple enough isn't it? Here's the hard part: It's a lot of work. It's a lot of work to get to know people and understand what they want -- especially millions, perhaps billions of customers. That takes a lot of work.

Ask yourself why many of the products we buy are made in China. It's because they work really hard! They work really hard to do a lot of work and they don't expect very much in return. That's the exact opposite of what is going on in the United States right now. We ask for a lot and don't work very hard to get it.

A lot of people think Wal-Mart takes advantage of Chinese labor, but I think the Chinese want more of Wal-Mart's business. Someone I met years ago spends a lot of time in China. He has a factory there. When he goes to visit the factory, the town cheers! They love him. They are so happy that he built his factory there. They are happy to have stable jobs and food and homes.

Many would say Wal-Mart is not following the golden rule because they wouldn't want to work the way Chinese workers work in China. I've never been to China, but if that story the gentleman told me about his factory is true, then the Chinese are happy to have the factories. Their lives before the factories were much harder than their lives after the factories. I know there are some terrible conditions around the world. But maybe the conditions we think are terrible, they think are great.

Remember, we are all people

It's easy to forget on this anonymous Internet that those we interact with are people. You have to remember people. You have to remember that you are a person. You have to remember that your customers are people. You have to remember that your clients are people. Your vendors are people. Your suppliers are people. We are all people. We aren't just corporations, we are corporations composed of people.

This whole planet is full of people and you can't treat them all the way you want to be treated. You have to treat them the way they want to be treated. The Golden Rule accomplishes a lot of that. Most people want to be treated with honesty, respect. They want to be flattered, they don't want to be hated. They don't want to be disagreed with, they want to be understood.

Understanding People is the Hardest Part

They aren't rational like computers. They don't accept for loops and boolean operators as input. They accept logos, ethos, and pathos as input. Understand that. Understand them.

I keep asking myself, "Why am I writing this on my company blog?" I keep telling myself, "The business books would look at me like I'm an idiot... you can't show your soul and get customers..." Well, I don't believe that's true. I think customers want honesty. They need it. They deserve it.

I'm tired of business as usual. It's time for some change. We have to think about the future. We've been thinking about the short term for too long. We can be dishonorable in the short term and get away with it, but in the long term, we have to be more thoughtful about how we behave and interact in the world.

I was watching this interview with Ayn Rand on the Donahue Show. Donahue is my hero. Donahue starts off talking about how baseball pitchers get hit with the ball and just brush it off, no pain. He said men are taught, "Don't show your feelings.... it's sort of a tyranny that men are not supposed to express..." I suspect he was about to say "Emotion" but then Ayn says, "It's a weakness, it's not strength. The strong man doesn't mind showing his feelings -- unhappy ones, or pain, or enthusiasm."

America has lost its emotion

We have sacrificed emotion for monetary gain. We've bought happiness with debt. We are stiffing the Chinese and our own employees. We can't do that anymore. We have to think and behave with vision. We can't replace happiness with products and consumerism. We have to be creative and productive and produce ideas and better lives for those outside our country if we are going to survive.

Americans in my generation and below, we were born into debt to the rest of the world who has worked hard for the past decades to build the products we buy. The food we eat. The clothes we wear.

If we keep going down the path we have been, our generation will be the first that will not have a better life than our parents. Debt, exhuberance, gluttony, sloth... and the rest of the deadly sins. They all describe our society. Maybe not all the individuals in it, but the sum total. No, I'm not lying, here's the list, maybe Wikipedia is lying. It would take 2 China's buying our products, to pay off our debt to the world and they have 4 times as many people as we do.

In a sense, the entire world can't pay off the exhuberant lifestyle Americans have lived for the past 5 decades. But Americans are very creative people. Perhaps the most creative in the world. We need to put that creativity to use now. We can't rely on ways of the past.

No emotion, no virtue

I wondered, Why has it become part of our society to deny emotion? I think there are two reasons. Have you ever been depressed? Did you feel like working? When I'm depressed I just don't like doing anything. If we aren't productive, we don't work hard enough and we don't make enough money.

But I do like reading stuff depressed people write. Kurt Vonnegut was pretty depressed, which I can understand. I like art from depressed people. Van Gogh cut off his ear just to feel anything. So it seems like there are good things that come from depression. If good things come from depression, why do we try to suppress depression? Why are there so many advertisements on television for anti-depressants? Do a lot of depressed people watch tv?

We shun depression, because depression is not productive. We need to be productive. We need to go to work. We need to keep the machine running. Depression is bad... But avoiding depression is worse. It has allowed us to avoid reflecting on why we are depressed. Why we should be depressed. It's okay, it's natural.

But what about other emotions? What about excitement? Love? Happiness? Elation? Business leaders aren't supposed to have those either... why? Donahue and Rand were talking about the extreme joy from the Americans when they beat the Russians at hockey. Rand said that was a rare example. In football today, if a football player makes a touchdown, he has to control his excitement. Do a dance, get fined. Those emotions aren't counter-productive.

So why can't we succeed in business if we show emotion? We all have them, don't we? Maybe the emotions don't match the business. Maybe they are stuck in the middle. Maybe a "sold soul" can't be happy... Maybe the skill isn't in suppressing the happiness, but in masking the sadness. It's easier to smile than it is to frown. If you want to smile, you don't even bother frowning... Where has the happiness in business gone?

We've lost our emotions and we've lost our courage. Those aren't my words. I heard it from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his address to Harvard in 1978. It was such a painful and honest truth, I cried when I heard it. Don't dismiss this man. He has shown the world painful truth when it could have cost him his life. That video is difficult to watch and listen to, but it is worth the hard work.

Getting rich quick isn't all it's cracked up to be

Mo' money, mo' problems. Kurt Cobain killed himself when I was in high school. I still remember that gloomy overcast day. Why do we let genius die like that? Maybe someone killed him, I don't know. Who knows? Research shows you only need fifteen thousand dollars (or maybe it was pounds) a year to be "happy enough." After that, we don't get much happier.

Studies have shown that since the 1950's, we've actually gotten less happy. Why? We've gotten more stuff, better technology, but less happiness...

Most of the videos I linked to were from the 1970's. I don't see many things like that on Television today. In this conversation with Buckminster Fuller from 1974, they talk about Cable Television. Cable was very new back then. Radio waves for TV were one way communication, but cable enabled two way communication. The conversation they have about cable TV was the same as the conversations we have about the Internet today. They talk about all the great things that can happen with two way communication, like voting, community development, etc. Why didn't those things happen?

These lessons here are all from 3 decades ago. People identified this trend decades ago. It seems like if we had listened to them then, perhaps we would have even better lives now. Not only Americans, but the whole world. Less poverty, less disease, less malnutrition, less homelessness. These great ideas are out there. The ideas that we think are new today, ideas we think are only now possible because of the internet, were ideas discussed three decades ago when cable television was introduced.

Why weren't those great ideas implemented? It wasn't due to a lack of technology... Maybe it is a lack of courage, a suppression of emotion, a short term focus... I think we can change the world if we start with those things.

When we abandon the golden rule, we can start thinking outside ourselves, outside our society, outside our world and start to think about future generations. Let's make life better for future generations on the planet. Let's enable future generations on this planet. There's enough to go around if we don't consume it all.