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Archive for September, 2009

Dangerous… But Exciting!


by Jeff Salz

We are living in a dangerous time.

The most dangerous moments are those when we least suspect the peril that surrounds us, the thin ice upon which we tread.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is such a moment. But it is not the kind of ‘danger’ you may be thinking, and this is exactly what makes it so ‘dangerous’.  Dangerous… but exciting.

Allow me to explain.

My daughter Yeshe and I have just returned from a ten-day globetrot. It is a tradition of Adventure Family Salz (akin to the Swiss Family Robinson) to invite our offspring to choose where in the world they would like to go – a sort of rite of passage – for their thirteenth birthday. Then off we go.  Yeshe chose Barcelona, Cadaques on the Spanish Costa Brava and Carcassonne – the medieval walled city across the Pyrenees in France. So off we went.

Barcelona

Father and Daughter, Self-Portrait

Tour Bus Rear View Mirror – Barcelona

We walked city streets into the night, drove a tiny car across amazing landscapes of forest and over cloud-shrouded summits. We met only delightful people (yes, even in France). Had nothing but positive experiences at every turn and roundabout.

My personal agenda was to have my fledgling adventurer daughter begin to see how smoothly, sweetly and safely one can traverse this glorious planet. Indeed  – from lively interactions with shop-owners to humorous encounters with fellow travelers – we enjoyed delightful eye-opening experiences. One after the other. Ask father or daughter and they will tell you: What a wonderful time!  What a magnificent world! This was the trip of a lifetime!

photo

Yeshe in Kansas City

It was at our stopover for a speaking engagement in Kansas City that I felt the danger.

The talk was for a group of high-powered financial advisors for whom the last year had been an experience of near total hell. The name of their parent organization had become synonymous with the excesses of the current economic meltdown. Despite their best advice, their clients had lost millions of dollars. No wonder they were cheered to hear from the first keynote speaker, an acclaimed financial expert from CNBC, that ‘the recovery is underway’ and ‘things are very likely to be getting back to normal relatively soon’.  The speaker received a rousing standing ovation.

I, however, felt compelled to provide a different perspective. Indeed, at the moment it does appear that the economy is getting back on track. But the biggest mistake we can make is to use the phrase ‘getting back to normal’.

“There is no normal”, I told my audience, “there is only change”. The danger we face is complacency, intellectual inertia, not learning the lessons so well laid out for us, not seeing the light at the end of the near-collapse experience we have just survived. Our economy, our planet will not survive unless we surrender the old paradigm values of excessive materialism and hyper-competition and replace them with ideals of sustainability, co-operation.

We are in grave danger. We have been warned

The recent economic devastation is the result of the short-sightedness of our past choices. Any recovery will result from making different, wiser choices in the future.

Although it disappointed me at the time, now I am pleased to say I did not receive a standing ovation that day.  I did, however, have audience members and the meeting organizer approach and thank me personally for my message and the courage it took to deliver it. “You spoke to many of us”, said one attendee. Others thanked me, saying their hearts and eyes had been opened and they had been moved to tears.

Let us hope the end to our current ‘economic downturn’ has begun. But let us not forget that while the landscape has changed the new map is solidly in our hands.

Monkey shines

The plotline has shifted.  The positive outcome of this epic called Western society is dependent upon all of us opening our eyes and ears and telling a new story.

I am re-dedicating my time and effort to help audiences discover for themselves and their organizations what appropriate life and work look like at this point in the new millennium.  I am also, on a daily basis, asking myself those same questions.

Why?  Because I want Yeshe and Jack to inherit a world like the one my parents handed me – a world full of endless possibilities for delight and adventure.  It is my dream that someday they will take my grandkids to Patagonia or Peru on for their thirteenth birthdays on a journey affirming the beauty of life and the kindness of strangers.

And they too will say: What a wonderful time! What a magnificent world! This was the trip of a lifetime!

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