The best people I’ve ever interviewed such as Andy Grove, Bill Bradley and Steve Case, all believe in three fundamental truths about everyone’s life:
1. Everything is changing, always (which is why you must look at every day with fresh eyes)
2. Reality always intrudes
3. Every person can have a profound effect on his/her own destiny.
It’s a belief in what poets call the symmetry of our actions, that the chickens do come home to roost, that what goes around does come around, that Karma is real, that there is always a day of reckoning. Or as the great retired preacher R. Maurice Boyd of The City Church of New York puts it, “Life is moral!” It’s exciting that tomorrow will be different from today. It’s comforting that the mean and vicious often get their comeuppance and the loving get their reward.
It’s also sobering to know that each of us is not only the protagonist but to a large extent, the author of our own stories. You have much more control than you may believe, though only if you start by being alert and responsive to reality and if you recognize how brutal life can be. Wild animals are aware of this.
Wisdom of the Wild
Abraham Maslow also writes that the healthiest people “live more in the real world of nature.” As someone who profoundly respects all living creatures, particularly free ones, I have found that the ablest among us are as alert and aware as wild animals. Self-sustaining creatures are acutely aware because for them, awareness is survival. To be alive is to be alert.
I live next to a wildlife preserve in the mountains of Sonoma California. Even my little tabby cat is always alert. My frequent absences as well as the presence of rattle snakes, a food-stealing fox, raccoons, coyotes and even the odd cougar, means that her life depends on instantaneously registering and calibrating every noise and scent.
Most of us in industrialized societies are only lulled into semi-consciousness by our climate controlled interiors, daily routines and lazy, categorized thinking. I submit to you that to thrive in our hyper-competitive yet sensory-deprived world, you need to be as freshly and as acutely aware as a wild animal.
A last thought regarding reality recognition – one way to judge how well you see reality is how well you are living. Proof is not in the pudding, it’s usually in the outcome of your choices. It is a trait that virtually all high-achievers develop. Once developed, it can help you be strong and true. But recognize this reality -- it can also make you strong and cruel. It’s your choice. In the wilds of the city as well as the forest there are both prey and predators.
Series on the 19 Personality Traits of the Best Human Beings:
Donald Van de Mark has interviewed hundreds of leaders in business and politics including: Andrew Weil, MD, former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, Jack Welch, Starbucks' Howard Schultz and Intel's Andy Grove, in his nearly 3 decades as a correspondent and anchor at CNN, CNBC and public television. He integrates practical tips from these great leaders to provide a riveting motivational speech on the personality traits of successful people. Donald is also the host of the corporate training video, The Wisdom of Caring Leaders.
Listen to Donald's upcoming webcast on Profiles of Successful Leadership with the American Management Association on September 2nd at Noon EST.
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