About Conversation Kindling

The purpose of this blog is to share stories, metaphors, quotes, songs, humor, etc. in hopes they'll be used to spark authentic and rewarding conversations about working and living fruitfully. There are at least three things you can gain by getting involved in these conversations. First, you'll discover new and important things about yourself through the process of thinking out loud. Second, you'll deepen your relationships with others who participate by swapping thoughts, feelings, and stories with them. Finally, you'll learn that robust dialogue centered on stories and experiences is the best way to build new knowledge and generate innovative answers to the questions that both life and work ask.

I write another blog called My Spare Brain. This is where I am "storing" ideas for use in future books, articles, blog posts, speeches, and workshops. There is little rhyme or reason for what I post there. I do this to encourage visitors to come as treasure hunters looking for new ways of seeing and thinking vs. researchers looking for new or better answers to questions they already know how to ask.

04 June 2010

Dennis Prager on the Goodness of Goodness

Dennis Prager is a radio talk show host, who has been nationally syndicated since 1999. He is also a frequent guest on TV news shows such as Larry King Live, The Early Show on CBS, The Today Show, The O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, and Hannity & Colmes. He has written four books, including the best-selling Happiness Is A Serious Problem.

Dennis has been with us at The Masters Forum on four occasions. During his first appearance, while delivering a presentation titled Ultimate Issues, he asked an interesting question:
"If you could choose just one of the four, would you want your children to grow up to be happy, smart, successful, or good?"
He asked us to make a choice and discuss it with a person sitting nearby. Incidentally, there is a correct answer to the question as far as Dennis is concerned: good. This jibes with his philosophy that the most basic and meaningful way to sort people or behavior is to use two boxes: one marked Good; the other marked Evil.

Then came a second question:
"If I asked your children which of the four they think you want most for them, what would their answer be?"
In other words, he wanted us to consider the possibility that we might be saying one thing is important with our words, while unwittingly reinforcing another with our deeds.

Steve Kerr, former Chief Learning Officer of both GE and Goldman Sachs, says we are prone to making this same mistake in our roles as managers and leaders. His classic article - On the Folly of Rewarding A, While Hoping for B - sheds light on the subject.

  • How do you typically let others know what you expect of them?
  • How do you check to see that they are absolutely clear about what you want?
  • How do you ensure that what you are asking for and what gets rewarded are one and the same?
  • If you could choose just one of the four, would you want those who work with you - or for you - to be happy/engaged in their work, smart/committed to learning, successful/getting the job done, or good/doing what's right?
  • If you asked them, what would they say you want most?
“Don't you draw the Queen of Diamonds, boy, she'll beat you if she's able. You know, the Queen of Hearts is always your best bet.” The Eagles, Desperado
"I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us, so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and wonder. Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?" - John Steinbeck, East of Eden

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