The woman I’m fortunate to call my wife went for a walk with me in a city that lies along a lakeshore. We came across this quote from Abraham Lincoln in a speech to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society before being elected president.
“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’ How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction! ‘And this too shall pass away,’ And yet, let us hope, it is not quite true. Let us hope, rather, that by the best cultivation of the physical world, beneath and around us, and the best intellectual and moral world within us, we shall secure an individual, social, and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward, and which, while the earth endures, shall not pass away.”
Who speaks like this today?
Who wakes up thinking about such things, giving themselves to these noble, civilization-building ideals?
Who is making friends out of enemies?
Who is defining transformation as something beyond the latest management initiative complete with new mugs and corporate shirts?
Who is drawing on ancient wisdom to foster a future for their descendants, instead of taking the wealth of past and future generations to pay for tinfoil addictions?
As we strolled on beyond the plaque where this was written, two men walked behind us. They were striding out from their gleaming high-rise insurance company office towering above us, brisk in their steps and loud with their voices. An older man mentoring a younger one.
The older to the younger: “They are a life insurance company, and they don’t give a sh*t about us.”
- They, not we (toxicity in the corporate culture)
- A business of life insurance that does not care about employee life (brand dissonance)
- Mentoring in the art of not giving a sh*t because no one else gives one (Dilbert lives!)
This downward form of quid pro quo pro quo pro quo was walking in the shadow of those nearby commemorative words from Lincoln. Such contrasting perspectives!
Earlier in the week we listened to one of my Convene colleagues hold forth on Emotional Intelligence, reminding us that an obscenely high percentage of employees are frustrated in their work. Frustrated means blocked, feeling unfulfilled, angry and/or hopeless. I could not have asked for a better witness to this than two professionally dressed men of different generations declaring their frustration to the wind, the waves, the trees, and to each other, not caring who might hear them. In spite of their wages, their supreme office location, and late spring warmth, they were feeding on bile.
This non-Lincoln like toxicity is touching so many things and in so many spheres. There will be no monuments to those who play this we-they game. Not any that we will stand and admire decades later. We won’t ponder their “they don’t give a sh*t” and be invited to raise our sights and efforts. Let’s stand, speak and live in Lincoln’s shadow instead of that of the Oedipus edifice.