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Archive for March, 2011

The lowest common denominator is defined as the most basic, least

sophisticated level of taste, sensibility, or opinion among a group of people.

Its direct opposite is the Highest Common Denominator:

our most elevated aspirations, our most evolved awareness,

our highest selves.

Dr. Jeff Salz

As an anthropologist with a thirst for adventure, I have often found myself in some pretty wild places. Often places where no outsider has ever before strayed.  I am not a collector of birds, not bugs or minerals. I prospect for wisdom. I have spent four decades mining the ‘wisdom lore’ of traditional peoples as far afield as Patagonia, Tibet, Peru and remotest Mexico to bring back home.  My most remarkable discovery so far?

With some variation – all the areas just mentioned share a similar wheel-shaped, a circular template of what it takes to be a successful human.

In most places the wheel is divided into quadrants. These are the principle pillars of wisdom and the key to living a good life. I share them with you here along with some hints of how they may offer insights into to running an organization or a family, leading and living in our current climate of unprecedented social, geo-political and economic change. I have named these pillars and universal perspective it inspires the way of the Highest Common Denominator – or HCD. Rooted in the four cardinal directions, they are the basis of my new series of keynotes and trainings.

Take time to ask yourself the following four questions and discover how your life may be altered forever in profoundly positive ways.

East: Vision

What is your DREAM?

People want to work for a vision that inspires the soul. A vision acts as a magnet for passion. It articulates the higher purpose of an organization; it describes how we serve. Businesses have more opportunity to influence the future than any other institution in the world. HCD leaders choose to make business an instrument for positive change and enlist active participation around a mission.

South: Vitality

What gives you greatest inspiration and vigor?

Employees are looking for more than a paycheck. They seek exuberance, meaning and fulfillment from their work, an environment in which “work” and “life” are not just “balanced,” but blended into an integrated, seamless whole. Accessing the HCD results in a sense of enthusiasm and engagement that nourishes and expresses our souls. In turn we move an organization forward. The leader’s mission is to enable each follower to find, grow and excel in her or his own personal quest.

West: Courage:

What do you believe in?

The word courage derives from the Latin ‘cor’, meaning heart. In times of diminished access to resources, reward systems become increasingly intrinsic: job satisfaction and retention are based around such themes as purpose, contribution and recognition and personal congruence. When individuals are connected to the power of their convictions the result is resilience and an indomitable spirit.

Creating an HCD culture means devoting even greater attention to meeting the needs of employees than for customers! This goes beyond the usual incentive and reward systems —to practices that awaken passion and satisfy the soul. The result is a dramatic improvement in profitability.

North: Wisdom

What will be your legacy?

The poet Kahlil Gibran wrote: Our work is our love made visible. An HCD leader is unafraid to ask the big questions, to frame ordinary events with an extraordinary perspective. Today’s most successful organizations have created a culture that prioritizes, seeking always to pay attention to what really matters. Human relations, integrity, attention to detail, contribution, a sense of mission are paramount. HCD organizations understand: pay attention to process and the profits will follow.

What the Wheel of Life – or any other wheel or circle – cautions us to remember is we are really just spinning in place. Going nowhere.  Our greatest chance for happiness begins the moment we realize that progress is an illusion.  The good news is that as soon as we open our hearts and our minds success is ours.

We have arrived.


As a cultural anthropologist, professional expedition leader and advisor to C-suite executives at cutting-edge corporations such as Google, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, eBay, Hewlett Packard, and the Walt Disney Company, Dr. Jeff Salz understands why – when faced by adversity  – some teams, organizations  and individuals flourish…while others fail.

Now, drawing from 30 years of remarkable adventures and a lifetime of investigation and study of ancient wisdom, cultures, and mythic traditions  – Jeff provides a practical models for optimal professional effectiveness and personal effectiveness.  His newest keynote and training event is titled  THE HIGHEST COMMON DENOMINATOR.

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