Tag Archives: vision

The Next 10 Years

EI 1006

Another year. This year’s resolutions looked pretty much the same as last year and the year before that so I’ve resolved to stop making New Year’s resolutions. Nonetheless the year-end (or beginning) is a time that calls for taking stock and reflecting on the past and the future. This year the big questions for me have to do with the next 10 years.

I have laughed a lot about how easily I can fall into making just about anything significant. I even made

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Do we have an economic or a spiritual problem?

By Jim Selman | Bio

Do we have an economic problem or a spiritual problem?

My teacher and friend Dr. Fernando Flores was a candidate for the Presidency of Chile. In one of his speeches, he declared, “We don’t have an economic problem so much as we have a spiritual one…we’ve forgotten who we are…we lack a vision and purpose for our nation”. He dropped out of the presidential race, but this phrase has stayed with me. I think it is true of most nations, including our own.

There is a maxim that states, “A vision without action is just a dream

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12-Step Program for America: Step 1

By Jim Selman | Bio

I work with organizations that are attempting to change. At the beginning of working with a new client, I point out what’s missing for any organization that has recurring or seemingly intractable problems: what’s missing is a different way of observing. Whether we’re talking about a company, a community or a continent, a new perspective always gives us an opening to create new possibilities, have new choices and take new actions: a new way of observing the world effectively gives us a different future than some variation of ‘more of the same’. =&0=&. When we do, we begin to realize that we have a paradigm problem. Until we deal with that, none of our seemingly intractable problems—from staggering debt to unending war, climate change to the underlying causes of the mortgage crises—can be solved. Albert Einstein expressed this concisely when he said that sometimes our problems cannot be solved by thinking the way we thought when we created them.

Paradigm problems are like addictions. They are ‘self-referential’ structures that, at some point, disconnect us from a larger ‘reality’. Once disconnected, we begin to follow self-destructive patterns of behavior until we ‘hit bottom’ or have some form of crisis that ‘breaks the paradigm’ and opens possibilities for making other choices. In AA and most ‘recovery’ literature, the self-destructive behavior is understood to be the symptom. The ‘disease’

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The New Year

By Jim Selman | Bio

The last 10 years seems to me to have been a long decade. I know that time is supposed to  ‘speed up’ as we get older, but the “Millennium” celebrations, Y2K and all the hype about the 21st century seems like ancient history. A decade ago, we still weren’t at war in two countries, 9/11 hadn’t happened, George Bush was still promising a bipartisan administration, climate change was still a bit of an arcane scientific debate for most of us, New Orleans was still having a non-stop party and Google was a minor start-up. YouTube didn’t exist at the turn of the century, eBay and Amazon were still babies, and the real estate bubble was just beginning. Steve Jobs had recently returned to Apple after spending 13 years with NeXT, the iPod and iTunes were concept just beginning to be developed and the iPhone wasn’t even in sight.

We were all younger and, I think, generally more optimistic than we are today. We’ve lost a lot of our innocence in only 10 years. From Al Qaeda to Bernie Madoff, we’re waking up to the realization that the world is not our oyster and that the American Dream is just a dream if we aren’t responsible for it and act upon it.

Personally, I think the saddest thing that has happened to us in the past decade is the political and ideological polarization of our nation. I don’t

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“Only God Can Save Us”

By Jim Selman | Bio

It was said that the philosopher Martin Heidegger’s last words were “Only God can save us.” He was, perhaps, one of the deeper thinkers (at least in modern times) on the question of who we are and what is really going on. As far as I know, he wasn’t religious. So what he meant by these words, if indeed he said them, is open to question.

My view is that he was talking about the fact that all human beings live in interpretations of “reality”—cultural and linguistic

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Where Is a Genie When You Need One?

By Jim Selman | Bio

There is a widely understood belief in Argentina’s culture that “the way we are is a big part of the problem … and one of our characteristics is that we’re always waiting for a leader to come along and save us.” The first time I heard this I was giving a talk to a large event in Buenos Aires. A man stood up and challenged my ‘American optimism’, suggesting that I just didn’t understand the way things really were in ‘their’ country. My response was to acknowledge that this may be true and to suggest that, since they were all waiting for the leader to appear, perhaps he could take the job until the leader came along. That got a chuckle or two and drove home my point. We live as if the causes and the solutions to our problems are somehow outside of ourselves and that they are beyond our ability to resolve. This view of the world inevitably leads to resignation—giving up—and has us drift into a kind of spectator relationship to life and the future.

I make the same point in a different way in my Leadership in Action workshops. I usually begin by asking participants what they would to say to a ‘Genie’ if that magical being promised to grant them one wish to change something in their organization. I am always a little surprised to hear people’s innocuous and tiny wishes (such as better communication, more cooperation between departments, more straight talk, more trust and so on). Not that these aren’t

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Eldering and Volunteering

By Jim Selman | Bio

Tough times can bring out the best in people. In these days of financial, environmental and social challenges, more and more of us are stepping forward and asking “What can I do?” Wherever we look, people and organizations are taking on problems and working hard to create a better world. Older people are volunteering more that ever. From an eldering perspective, they want a chance to make a difference.

People have an extraordinary capacity to go beyond what is reasonable

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Brave Nation

By Jim Selman | Bio

There is an amazing website called The Brave Nation that is showcasing people who’ve made a difference. Many of these examples of human vision, commitment and perseverance are boomers who challenged ‘the system’ in the ’60s and ’70s and are now sharing their experience with the current generation of ‘change agents’. It is inspiring to remember and reconnect with the idealism of our youth and perplexing to wonder what happened to so many of us who have drifted into complacency about (or in some cases complicity with) current events.

Personally, I think the idealism is still there, perhaps under a cloak of resignation and lost dreams. So much has happened in the past 35 years or so that it is difficult to imagine, let alone remember, who we were. It seems so long ago that I can’t even remember how it felt to live in the possibility of a “world that works for everyone”. Civil rights marches and protests aside, the world of my youth was a heady time—a time when ‘the best and the brightest’ went

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Bravado

Over the past couple of years, I have been growing in my appreciation of just about everything and everyone in my life. I am living most of the time in an almost sublime state of acceptance and gratitude. Fears about the future have somehow disappeared. My work is more satisfying than at any time I can recall and, by all accounts, is more impactful.

When I began this inquiry about aging almost 30 years ago, my vision was that the end of life should have as much possibility as the beginning—that

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Keeping Score

It’s been said a lot of different ways that life is not a destination, but a journey. A lot of homespun wisdom and formal philosophy attempts to clarify ‘the purpose of life’ or various other questions about what we’re doing with our lives and why we do it. A good friend was recently seeking my advice about his relationship to money. He was somewhere between perplexed and depressed that he hasn’t been able to produce the financial results in his business that he wanted. This man is a

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