Lessons From a Happy Panting Golden Retriever on a Hot Summer Day…Well, it’s no secret. They are here. Actually they’re back: The Dog Days of Summer. The phrase conjures some weird images for me - especially being an unabashed dog-lover. And in particular being in love with a certain Golden Retriever named Bella. Her rich luxurious tasseled coat and feathers seems to be a cruel adornment on the 3-H (hazy, hot and humid) days we have here in The Hudson Valley. Her fun and sun loving proclivities leave her panting long after she retreats like a spoiled brat back into the shelter of our (thankfully) air-conditioned home. The secret is that I feel the same way.
I thank my lucky stars for air-conditioning. And we can thank one star in particular, Sirius, the dog star for the actual reason the hottest part of the summer in the northern hemisphere is called “the dog days.” Sirius is the brightest star in the Earth’s night sky and the prominent star in the constellation Canis Major, or Greater Dog. The reference can be traced all the way back to the ancient Greeks with mention made by Homer in The Iliad to the discomfort of summer under the dog star bringing of “heat and fevers to suffering humanity.”
My promise and duty to my faithful readers of Mikki-Leaks is to help you know what you need to know and think about what you need to think about and expose the secrets some among us would prefer you not to learn about. It isn’t that these “powers that be” don’t want you to know - it may be that they prefer you to believe that you do know, rather than have you inclined to be curious and inclined to be constantly learning and growing. There is an old saw, “knowledge is power,” but don’t be misled. It’s a dirty little trick foisted upon you by those seeking to remain in power. Real power comes from curiosity and learning. When we approach the world from a place of “knowing” we are typically hopelessly locked in our beliefs and opinions and dangerously unaware of what we don’t know and need to know. When we are confident in what we believe we know we cut off the need and even our ability to learn. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “
All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.” Learning allows us to interpret, unlearn and then reinterpret things to evolve our understandings about and our relationship with the ever-changing world we must navigate through. There is no human truth that will set you free. Curiosity might.
In my leadership work as a Vistage Chair I recognize this state of stubborn and certain knowing as a CEO disease rampant among people who for one reason or another have assumed their post as leaders of their respective organizations. So how do we balance the “need to know,” or at least the need to look as though we do, with the need to be a role model for perpetual growth and learning? And isn’t this necessary in order to have our organizations and even our lives perform to their potential?
Learning equals life. We cannot grow without learning. This is true of both physical and intellectual growth. Babies, human and animal in the wild, all must “learn” to suckle, to recognize their mother, to communicate their needs and wants and to mobilize themselves. Without all of these things they will fail to thrive and eventually could not survive. Instincts don’t replace learning, they simply direct it. In our youth and beyond we continue to learn how to grow in order to survive. We learn to interpret our surroundings and the world. We learn to care for our needs. We learn to recognize danger, measure risks and nurture our curiosity in order to discover opportunities and solve the problems we uncover. Some of us learn to lead others. And some learn to lead great organizations, even nations. I refer to people as either “knowers” or “growers.” When we stop learning we stop growing and at any age that is to our peril. What are you doing do learn and grow? Are you leading others by making it necessary for those you care for and about to help them realize their potential? Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, “Treat a [person] as he appears to be, and you make them worse. But treat a [person] as if they were what they potentially could be, and you make them what they should be.” It would be my guess that the secret to great leadership, and perhaps leading a fulfilled and successful life, is to contribute to the potential of the people we can serve. It is what I am aiming to do with you here. So before the enemies of the truth discover where I am hiding and try to extinguish my insidious curiosity I will escape to my air-conditioned safe-house and wait out the remaining dog-days of summer.