Thought-Bytes
Rex C. Mitchell, Ph.D.

Here is a selection of some thoughts and ideas (both mine and others') that I value. I hope these will give you further understanding of me and my approach to consulting, teaching, and life, and also may supplement the special thoughts that are important to you. They are grouped, loosely, under the following eight categories:


LEADERSHIP & POWER

A leader is best when people barely know he exists. Not so good when people obey and acclaim him. Worse when they despise him. "Fail to honor people, they fail to honor you;" But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, "We did this ourselves." [Lao-tse, Tao Te Ching]

As leaders we must learn to see the possibilities in others and then do whatever it takes to bring forth these possibilities. Note Michelangelo's vision, "In every block of marble I see a statue; see it as plainly as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls which imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to other eyes, as mine already see it." [RCM, 1968]

Power need not be associated with selfishness, aggression, deceit, personal aggrandizement, or oppression of the less-powerful. Power can be viewed as a necessary, vital part of personal effectiveness and relevance, as the ability to use resources to accomplish worthwhile things. I believe that power is necessary, and is not intrinsically good or bad. Power is necessary for an individual to be more than a helpless pawn in the game of life played by others. [RCM, 1994]

Leadership is not by itself good or desirable. Leadership is a means. Leadership to what end is thus the crucial question. [Peter Drucker]

Eighty percent of success is showing up. [Woody Allen]

There is nothing so wasteful as doing with great efficiency that which doesn't have to be done at all. [Anon]

Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand. [General Colin Powell]

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant. [ Max DePree]

A grandfather was talking to his grandson about how he felt, late in life. He said, "I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is full of anger, despair and hopelessness. The other is full of compassion. strength, and hope."
The grandson asked, "Which wolf will win this fight in your heart?" The grandfather answered, "The one that I feed."

Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off your goals.

Institutional processes place individuals "in power." This does not mean they really have it, but, rather, that they have a license to take it. [Adolf Berle]

If you think you have power, try ordering around someone else's dog.

Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders. [Tom Peters]

Leadership is the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations. [Kouzas & Posner]

It is difficult to inspire others to accomplish what you haven't been willing to try.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. [Lord Acton]

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you. [Pericles, 430 B.C.]

Power always can destroy itself without help... If it has no purpose, its owner goes mad, and self-destruction ends it If its holder's chief purpose is to deify the power holder, disintegration is even more rapid. But when it liberates men and women, each develops in himself a measure of power. They contend with themselves, with each other, and with their power itself.... Power is most safely held when it fosters and gives effect to these dreams and makes possible their pursuit. [Adolf Berle, 1969, p.562]

Boldness governed by superior intellect is the mark of a hero. This kind of boldness does not consist in defying the natural order of things and in crudely offending the laws of probability. [Carl von Clausewitz, c.1828]

The cloak of leadership is not the mantle of comfort, but rather the robe of responsibility. [Henry Ford]

We must become the change we wish to see in the world. [Mahatma Gandhi]

Never underestimate the power of a few committed individuals to change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. [Margaret Mead]

Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now. [Goethe]

The task is ...not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees. [Erwin Schrodinger]

Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least. [Goethe]

Love and power need not be in competition, unless we organize our thinking to make it so. [RCM 1995]

Your democratic institutions... must foster, defend, and enlarge institutions by which knowledge can be made greater and choices wider and more certain. ...The real function of power and the order it creates... is the liberation of men and women to think and be and make the most of themselves. [Adolf Berle]


ORGANIZATIONAL STRATEGY AND ISSUES

When a paradigm shifts, everyone goes back to zero. The industry leaders under one paradigm can be defeated by new/weaker players who attain a better position under the new paradigm (p.140)
New paradigms put everyone practicing the old one at great risk. The higher one's position, the greater the risk. The better you are at your paradigm, the more you have invested in it, the more you have to lose by changing paradigms (p.69) [Joel A. Barker, Future Edge, NY: William Morrow, 1992]

Where to look for intellectual capital? in one or more of three places: its people, its structures, and its customers. (human capital, structural capital, & customer capital) [p.75]
The squeeze isn't on suppliers per se; it's on anyone who is left out of the information flow, or fails to take advantage of it. ...Managers have to ask three new questions of the value chain: What information drives the business? Who has it? To whom is it worth most? Depending on its business, a company might find that it should change the physical activities it performs to take advantage of the flow of intellectual activities - i.e., move upstream or downstream to put itself where the fish are biting.(p.153)
In the new organization, power flows from expertise, not from position. The dirty secret of flat organizations is that they still need authority ...and no one has it. (p.209-210) [Stewart, Thomas A. (1997). Intellectual capital: The new wealth of organizations. New York: Doubleday.]

I am convinced that if the rate of change within the organization is less than the rate of change outside, the end is near. [ Jack Welch, while CEO of General Electric]

It seemed that every time we were beginning to form up in teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and what a wonderful method it can be for creating an illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization. [Petronius Arbiter, 200 B.C.]

In strategy, it is important to see distant things as if they were close, and see a distanced view of close things. [Miyamoto Musashi, 1584-1645]

A famous 19th Century writer, at the end of a long letter, wrote "I'm sorry to have written such a long letter; I didn't have time to write a short one!"

Note some of Parkinson's Laws: (1) work expands to fill the time available, (2) expenditures rise to meet income, (3) the printed word expands to fill the space available for it.



PLANNING & IMPLEMENTATION

In Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass, when Alice in this strange land approaches a crossroad and asks the Cheshire Cat sitting in the tree ahead, "Which road shall I take?" He asks, "Where do you want to go?" After Alice replies, "I don't know," he says, "Then any path will do."

If you don't know where you're going, you might wind up somewhere else. [Yogi Berra]

Many a slip twixst the cup and the lip. [R. B. Barnham 1840, but an older tradition]

You have to work with the situation as your implementation proceeds - "Plans get you into things, but you got to work your way out." [Will Rogers, 1949]

One definition of insanity is continuing do the same things and expecting different results.

Nothing is impossible for the person who does not have to make it happen. [RCM, 1971]



DECISION MAKING & CREATIVITY

Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide. [Napoleon, Maxims , 1804]

Life is made up of a series of judgments on insufficient data, and if we waited to run down all our doubts, it would flow past us. [Justice Learned Hand, On Receiving an Honorary Degree , 1939]

Many complain about their memory, few about their judgment. [La Rochefoucauld]

Gentlemen, I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here... Then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about. [Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. - while president of GM, c. 1925]

Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different. [Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, Nobel prize winning physician]

Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men. [David Ogilvy]

Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one we have. [Roger von Oech]

Look for the second right answer. [Roger von Oech]

The best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas. [Linus Pauling]

Seek simplicity, then distrust it. [Alfred North Whitehead]

What concerns me is not the way things are, but rather the way people think things are. [Epictetus]

That idea is so damned nonsensical and impossible that I'm willing to stand on the bridge of a battleship while that nitwit tries to hit it from the air. [Newton Baker, U.S. Secretary of War in 1921, reacting to Gen. Billy Mitchell's claim that airplanes could sink battleships by dropping bombs on them]

Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. [Lord Kelvin - British mathematician, physicist, and president of the British Royal Society, c. 1895]

Reagan doesn't have the presidential look. [United Artists Executive - dismissing the idea that Ronald Reagan be offered the starring role in the movie, The Best Man, 1964]

They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist____ . [General John B. Sedgwick - Union Army Civil War officer's last words, uttered during the Battle of Spotsylvania, 1864]

To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge. [Confucius]

It's not what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so. [Will Rogers]

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposite ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. [F. Scott Fitzgerald]

Every rule here can be challenged except this one.


HUMAN INTERACTIONS

The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred. [George Bernard Shaw]

The core of the theory of dissonance is rather simple. It holds that: (1) There may exist dissonant or "nonfitting" relations among cognitive elements; (2) The existence of dissonance gives rise to pressures to reduce the dissonance and to avoid increases in dissonance; (3) Manifestations of the operation of these pressures include behavior changes, changes of cognition, and circumspect exposure to new information and new opinions. [Festinger, Leon (1957, reissued 1962). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford: Stanford University Press, p.31]

It is people who bring meaning to organization events rather than events possessing meanings that are revealed to those who are sufficiently objective to interpret them.... an effective organization depends on people (with comparable goals) possessing the relationships and communication processes to deal constructively with their personal differences. [Culbert, Samuel A., & McDonough, John J., 1985. Radical management: Power politics and the pursuit of trust. NewYork: The Free Press (Macmillan, p.11-12]

...when your advice is directed toward assisting people to change their orientations, then your feedback and advice-giving should begin with a focus on internals, not externals. Instead of giving information, you need to collect it. You need to learn the personal assumptions that lead another person to behave in ways that you judge counterproductive and to seek outcomes that you read as self-defeating. You need to do this in order to understand what change in thinking will produce changes and adjustments... [Culbert, Samuel A., 1996. Mind-set management: The heart of leadership . New York: Oxford. p.249]

Strangers are just friends waiting to happen. [anon]

A friend is one who knows all about us, but is loyal to us just the same. What comfort there is in feeling safe with a friend and not having to censor or worry about how even my least worthwhile thoughts will be received. [RCM, 1963]

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know what I was walling in or walling out. ([Robert Frost]

One reason we should love our enemies is because we probably made them ourselves! [RCM 1972]

Although I may not be able to change how I feel, in the moment, I can change how I react, even if only to a small degree. How I react will alter both the situation and how I feel about it in the future. [RCM 2010]

Forgiveness is giving up the idea of a better past. [William Faulkner]

Forgiveness is the heart's capacity to release its grasp on the pains of the past and free itself to go on. [Jack Kornfield]

We take everyone in life at the value he puts upon himself; but he must indeed put some value upon himself. We are more inclined to endure the people who are difficult than to bear with people who are insignificant. [Goethe]

When a person is wrapped up in her/himself, this person makes a pretty small package!

If you confer a benefit, never remember it; if you receive one, never forget it. [Cicero]

Enthusiasm is contagious. Be a carrier.

The five most important words: "I am proud of you."
The four most important words: "What is your opinion?"
The three most important words: "If you please."
The two most important words: "Thank you."
The least important word: "I."

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt!

The Chinese character for conflict is made up of two different symbols - one indicates danger, the other indicates opportunity.

The Japanese symbol for listening is made up of three symbols - those for ear, eyes, and heart.


FREEDOM

If there is any principle ...that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought - not free thought for those who agree with us, but freedom for the thought that we hate. [Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes}

Political extremism involves two prime ingredients: an excessively simple diagnosis of the world's ills and a conviction that there are identifiable villains back of it all. Such extremism comes easily to men who have doped themselves with delusions of their own unblemished virtue and the rascality of others. Blind belief in one's cause and a low view of the morality of other Americans - these seem mild failings. But they are the soil in which ranker weeds take root - political lunacy, terrorism, and the deep, destructive cleavages that paralyze society. [John Gardner, former Secretary of HEW under Pres. Johnson}

If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. [Thomas Jefferson, in his first Inaugural Address]

The greatest enemy of truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived and dishonest - but the myth - persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. [Pres. John F. Kennedy, at Yale Univ, 6/11/62]

The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias. [Justice Learned Hand, in his comments to a group of newly naturalized Americans during WWII, quoted by Justice Antonin Scalia (U.S. Supreme Court) in the WSJ 9/7/99]

The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding. [Justice Louis Brandeis, 1928]
(To give you chills about the current (2008) relevancy of this, read the current book by Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals.)

The true danger is when Liberty is nibbled away, for expedients. [Edmund Burke, 1899]

Nothing is more terrible than ignorance in action. [Goethe]

The person who is utterly free will become spontaneously responsible. [Rollo May]

If we could shrink the Earth's population to a village of 100 people, preserving all existing human ratios, we would have: 57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 from North and South America, and 8 Africans. Seventy would be non-white, 70 non-Christian. Half of the world's wealth would be in the hands of six people, all but one U.S. citizens. Only 30 people would be able to read, half would suffer from malnutrition, and 80 would live in substandard housing. Only one person would have a college education.


LEARNING

No man can reveal aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your own knowledge. The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness. If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind. [Kahlil Gabran]

If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. [Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790]

Nothing is more terrible than ignorance in action. [Goethe]

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. [Martin Luther King, 1963]

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. [Aristotle, 384-322 B.C.] We might expand this to say, It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting or rejecting it.

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. [Daniel Patrick Moynihan]

You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it himself. [Galileo, 1564- 1642]

To educate the mind without educating the morals is to educate a menace to society. [Theodore Roosevelt]

We need both plumbers and philosophers in our society, and unless we provide quality education for both, neither our pipes nor our ideas will hold water. [John Gardner, 1963}

The task of the excellent teacher is to stimulate "apparently ordinary" people to unusual effort. The tough problem is not in identifying winners; it is in making winners out of ordinary people. [K. Patricia Cross]

Teachers affect eternity because they never know where their influence will stop. [ Mitch Albom]

Methods which are permanently successful in formal education... give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking, or the intentional noting of connections; learning naturally results. [John Dewey, Democracy and Education, 1916]

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. [John Dewey]


LIFE

A Few Longer Thoughts on Life and Death

We must become that which we wish to change in the world. [Mahatma Ghandi]

Perfect wisdom has four parts: Wisdom, the principle of doing things right; Justice, the principle of doing things equally in public and private; Fortitude, the principle of not fleeing danger, but meeting it; and Temperance, the principle of subduing desires and living moderately. [Plato]

Try approaching each day with ...I've never lived this day before! [RCM 1975]

Don't let yesterday use up too much of today! [Will Rogers]

May you live all the days of your life. [Jonathan Swift 1667-1745, English satirist, "Polite Conversation" Dialogue 2]

By the time you're 80 years old, you've learned everything. You only have to remember it. [George Burns]

Sometimes we need to forget actively. Consider the experience of Imanuel Kant (a great German philosopher, 1724-1804) who lived for decades in entire and trustful dependence on his manservant, Lampe. Then, one sad day, he discovered that Lampe had systematically robbed him for those many years. He felt compelled to dismiss his old servant, but how he missed him! In his journal this poignant line appears: "Remember to forget Lampe." To forget, we need to reverse the process of remembering. When the memory or image rises, turn your thoughts immediately from it. Have readily available in your mind a few interesting themes or scenes always on call - things you find particularly absorbing and which have power to grip your thought and imagination. Rapidly replace the intruding memories with one of these positive images. [RCM, 1977]

To believe in God is to know that all the rules are fair, and that there will be wonderful surprises. [in the front cover of an alternative-culture, psychedelic magazine in the 1960's]

You can not accomplish anything that you can not visualize yourself accomplishing. [RCM, 1965]

I've been doing psychology for 60 years, and I've come to believe we human beings are innately inclined toward becoming life-affirming, constructive, responsible, and trustworthy. [Carl Rogers]

You miss 100% of the shots you never take. [Wayne Gretzky]

A wonderful thing about love: it can not be wasted -- no matter how or where it is dispensed, it has an impact. [RCM, 1960]

You give twice when you give quickly. {RCM 1987]

...if I love someone, not only do I strive to know him, so that I can devote myself more effectively to his well-being; I also display my love by letting him know me. At the same time, by so doing, I permit him to love me. [Sidney Jourard, The Transparent Self , Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1964, p.4]

If we only wished to be happy, this could be fairly easily accomplished. However, we want to be happier than others and we think others to be happier than they actually are. [Montesquieu]

Yesterday is already a dream, and tomorrow is only a vision, but today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. [Sanskrit writing]

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a man can change his circumstances by a mere change in attitude. [W. James, c. 1900]

People can be divided into three groups: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. [J. W. Newbern]

Lord, when we are wrong, make us willing to change. And when we are right, make us easy to live with. [P. Marshall]

We should realize that we all contribute to mediocrity at some times. [RCM, 1961]

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape. [Anon]

In a relationship, try never to say "always" or "never." [RCM 1984]

Better to pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than to fade and wither dismally with age. [James Joyce, The Dead ]

When love and skill are combined, expect a masterpiece. [Ruskin]

No generalization is worth a damn, including this one! [Oliver Wendell Holmes]

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Last modified January 2, 2012 Copyright 1985-2012 Rex Mitchell