As I was walking my dog today, I was thinking of what I would say. And I thought of the famous line from that movie: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.” (Network) [This is a rather complicated allusion, so apologies to those expecting a simple one.]
So, if we are free, we have to also acknowledge our duty, our responsibility. This is an ancient concept in all cultures. Freedom to be completely irresponsible is not a thing any civilized person wants.
At the personal level, responsibility means first we must take care of ourselves, without violating the freedom of others. And take care of our immediate families and friends.
But, and perhaps in this season and in my culture influenced by Christ, we may say responsibility joyfully also includes: It is more blessed to give than to receive. More broadly to our, as it was quaintly phrased, to give to our neighbors. To those we know but have no real connection to.
In business this may seem a paradox. And for me for most of my life this seemed hard: That I should give more than I get. But it does not say that. To me it says: by focusing on the giving, you actually receive more. Not unlike what Peter Drucker said (that the purpose of the firm was to serve the customers).
Receive more of what? Ah, yes, of the more valuable things. Let me leave it at that. No doubt in some way you have experienced this.
Business is a wonderful transaction, where each side gives less than he gets. One side pays less than the object is worth to them. And the other side gives up a (to them) less valuable object (or service) for the money they need more. It is wonderful magic. The magic of freedom, and free enterprise.
So, what am I mad about? I look about me and see, so plainly, so much imperfection. So much want. So much need. So many tears. So many who deny such large parts of their full humanity. As though life or the world is so dreadful, they must hole themselves up inside a ‘resource’ that is barely more than a thinking machine that drinks coffee. They willingly give up such large parts of their full humanity. I too have done this. We are so much more than we have yet become.
So, if you are a little bit free, if you have a little bit more of material wealth or perhaps that greater wealth, confidence that in life (as in death) all will be well if we stride confidently toward our dreams, then you have the responsibility to give that to others. Make them more free. Make them more confident that they can make of their own lives a better life. And themselves do that too, for others. Not abstractly, but one moist, shaking, confused, imperfect, animalistic, feeling, breath-inspiring, mistake-making, incompletely understanding child of god at a time. Make ready one person waiting to shine as the paragon of animals. This is where the real value is.
Now, I am not against money and business. Far far from that. I believe in money, as one of the more useful illusions of man. But money and business were made to serve man, not man to serve them. I am speaking now of the music that plays beneath all the MBA stuff you may have learned.
You have the responsibility, as you well know, to serve a higher purpose.
I do not sound this call to ask you to make an unreasonable sacrifice, which would most likely be only an ego-trip. No, within the real humility of your real self and station, neither too high nor too low, you can do more easily. If you put yourself in the flow of the truth and the way. Easily. If you stand upon the truth, and act in concert with your friends and colleagues, the world cannot resist you. Fearsome as it may seem sometimes, it cannot resist you. We have so many examples, do you need to hear them again? I will mention, as one overwhelming to me, the falling of the Iron Curtain in 1989.
So, this is our responsibility. To act somewhat more greatly than we have till this day. And yet to recognize that even our enemies are our friends. Fight them if we must, but fight them as a way of saying they are worthy of our fight. They are humans who deserve the help of correction.
The first shall be last. And the greatest wash the very feet of their friends. These seem paradoxes, but the wise know that strongest action comes from quietness and balance. You can do it.
Perhaps you do not like, or do not feel called to be responsible to, the purpose I have tried to articulate. No mind. Articulate for yourself and others a yet better purpose.
PS. For those looking for concrete agile ideas, see the next post on Sprint Planning. (Although the ideas in this post really are also agile ideas you can act on.)