What have you learnt to forget?

Last year, during the heat of the summer semester, Ms. Alissar Nasrallah warmed the hears of my students with her keynote speech “What We Have Learned to Forget – The Human Behind the Business.” Alissar manages Prest, her family’s corporate gifting business. I first met Alissar when we were both extras on Star Trek Beyond; we struck up a friendship and I was fortunate enough that she was willing to share her insights and ideas with my class.

Acknowledging the connection between business and ethics, Alissar reflected on the importance of philosophical and humanitarian values and their role in business. The following is an essay version of her presentation — provided by Alissar.

We have segregated our life into two main categories: Business and Personal, forgetting that life has much more than that. We typically apply a “live in the moment” only between these categories with “don’t bring your home problems to your work” and vice versa. We got into the details of the norms and values “don’t be too friendly at work” “be too friendly at work to lobby well” “know where to stop” “your personality at work is different than your personality with your friends.”

The segregation got deeper, forgetting that this person is a singular one and that his life is much richer than being sized down to two sectors. Once we understand the big picture that makes us – what I call the big ‘I’ – we will know that this segregation is not needed and that our personality can be constant in all areas. We will know that the nuance is having clarity of how to act and when to act no matter where we are and whom we are dealing with. Enrich the big ‘I’ with humane values to find stability, clarity and to pave your way up in all your actions, words and thoughts.

An inevitable part of enriching the big ‘I’ is how we deal with the other ‘Is’. Because of the ferociousness of survival, we apply twisted strategies that, I believe, most are not filtered humanely – from networking (that comes from the basic human nature of relationships), plotting to defeat colleagues, human objectification and object humanization, etc.

Why not try to change the twisted strategies for once and see how the world evolves; we might like it better. Strategies are needed yes, and smartness is needed. Inhumanity is not. Depict negative connotations is everything you read, you see, you watch, you listen to and you think of. What we feed our mind will be unavoidably translated into our actions.

If you don’t believe in goodness to drive your actions and responsibilities towards others, you have to believe in the simple logic that says: if I encounter pain on you, you will most probably reply with pain. Put this on the whole population scale, having in mind the complex human psychic.

The world will be an unpleasant place to live in – an unsustainable place. We often use the term sustainability when we talk about the natural environment, and not the human environment. For us to live together sustainably, we need (not only want) to live well together which means we need to be good to each other. In the lines of this idea, I came up with a simple untwisted strategy that I called “Positively-Conditioned Objectives”.

Everything we do at any time has an objective, even if we are unaware of it. A coffee with friends has an objective of connecting, venting out, updating. Being aware of the objective allows us to eliminate anything unnecessary along the way. The objective is for us and the positive-conditioning is our responsibility towards others. “I want to be the best cook” is my objective – it is for me. “Supporting others along the way” is my positive conditioning – it is my responsibility towards others.

I am not only talking about big objectives. I am also talking about walking-in-the-park’s objective and having-coffee-with-friends’ objective. The biggest objective of all times is to live happily. And the biggest positive conditioning is to be loving. You can push this strategy down to your tiniest actions, thoughts and words. It is a compass to always know yourself, be aware of what you’re doing, thinking, saying and feeling all the while being responsible towards others for a sustainable, more pleasant collective life.

You can also watch a video of Ms. Alissar’s presentation below.

Just a few hours after I took this picture on April 14, 2009 events transpired that would forever change my life.Two years ago yesterday I posted my last blog post.  A week later, I found myself (to paraphrase Buddy Holly) “learning the game.” A month later, an unexpected discovery revealed I was the one who had been gamed.

Without revealing too many details, this discovery delivered an exceptionally financially and emotionally expensive education on all sorts of dichotomies:

  • conditional love vs. unconditional love
  • co-parenting vs. parental alienation
  • espoused ethics vs. ethics-in-use
  • fact vs. fiction
  • faithful friendships vs. false friendships
  • honesty vs. dishonesty
  • legal ethics vs. legal procedures
  • moral certainty vs. moral relativism

I had previously assumed the events and behaviors I witnessed only happened in Desperate Housewives, LA LawLifetime Movie Network films, soap operas and The Twilight Zone. While you’re at it throw in some Benny Hill Show and Beverly Hills, 90210.

Despite my natural inclination to find the humor in my recent adventures, there is a very serious tone to it all. Given my profession as a teacher and trainer, these past two years have revealed to me an important nugget of knowledge that I express as follows:

‎”The toughest, but truest lessons we learn don’t come from a book; they come from the people, places, and predicaments in our lives.”

Sometimes those lessons involve heartache and sleepless nights, but hopefully we emerge as more complete individuals. Trying times can reveal the worst of people, yet they can also reveal the benevolence of others. It quickly becomes clear who you can trust and who really cares about you when you are in your time of greatest need.

I am endeavoring to move forward from my experience and leave behind me the distractions and drama that filled the past two years of my life.

With storm clouds clearing, I am looking ahead to a positive new future on a wide open ride of life! While I won’t use the word grateful, I do feel that these past two years helped me to grow and mature in ways that would not have happened otherwise. My recent experience  is a tool with which I will build an exceptional new life.

I will also remain deeply involved with the two most important parts of my past life who are also the center of my present and future life: my sons Jacob and Max.

On a practical level, my “enrollment” in this endeavor has prevented me from updating this blog as frequently as I would have liked while also impacting my plans to pursue a PhD as I had originally planned.

I am reminded of the following words by Langston Hughes:

“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up Like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore– And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over– like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?”

I refuse to let my PhD dream “dry up, fester, stink, get crusty, sag or explode.” Quite the opposite: once the dust settles I will focus forward on a doctoral program that will provide me with the skills to produce research while ensuring my success as college professor

Likewise, I will begin posting to this blog again.  It might take a few posts to get the rust out but I look forward to once again actively engaging in an educational and informational dialog.

Onward and upward!

In the spirit of the holiday season, I crafted the following economy-inspired version of the classic Christmas tradition ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas for your yuletide pleasure. Behold a brand-new holiday classic: ‘Twas The Night Before Bailout!

Bailout America Logo

‘Twas the night before Bailout, when all through the Board,
Directors were scrambling, cash and stock options to horde.
Their loans were defaulting, their stock values shrinking,
Everyone hoping that St. Paulson would soon be ringing.

The executives were nestled all snug in their silk ties,
While visions of cash bonuses danced about like flies.
And the CEO in his cravat, and I in my gold-lined cap,
Just cooked our books so Fed money we could trap.

When out up on the helipad there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my office, did the glass ceiling shatter?
Away to the penthouse boardroom I flew in a tizzy,
Tore open the blinds, with anticipation I was dizzy.

The moon shining on the breasts of my gullible peon,
Gave the lustre of Bond’s martinis to objects like neon.
When, what to my glazed, wandering eyes I should spy,
But a red Hummer burning rubber across the night sky!

With an old weathered driver, green eyes and a sneer,
I knew in a moment that St. Paulson was finally here!
More rapid than auditors his eight minions they came,
He whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now, Citi! Now, BofA! Now, Morgan and Stanley,
On, GM! On, Chrysler! On Goldman and Fannie!
To the top of the building! To the top of Street Wall!
Now bail away! Bail away! Bail away all!”

As dry dollars that before a financial firestorm fly,
When they meet with the SEC, jet away to the sky;
So up to the building-top that red Hummer it flew,
With bags full of  TARP money and St. Paulson too.

And then, with prostate tingling, I heard on the ceiling,
The posturing and grandstanding of all eight underlings.
As I drew in from my Cuban cigar while turning around,
Right into the Boardroom St. Paulson crashed down.

He was dressed all in Gucci, from his head to John Lobbs,
And his clothes were tarnished with the money he robbed.
A bundle of taxpayer’s cash he had flung across his back,
He looked like a meth dealer furtively opening his pack.

His eyes how they squinted! His breath was so smelly!
His face covered in cash, dirty dollars filled his belly!
He reeked of the federal dollars he had just fleeced,
So slick was his style, his beard covered in grease.

The stump of a fat stogie he clenched tightly in his jaw,
His carbon footprint was huge, it went for miles I saw!
He had a distorted face and belly that he sure spoiled,
It sloshed when he laughed, like a bowlful of crude oil!

He was corpulent and wasteful, a frightening monster,
Had he not had the cash I’dve hit him with my roadster!
With no questions or oversight, the bailout he gave me,
Sarbanes-Oxley is a joke, now of regulations I am free!

He giggled and grunted then went straight to his scheme,
And filled all of the Board’s pockets with the stolen green.
He then turned with a jerk, and stuck a finger up his nose,
And when giving a belch, up through the ceiling he rose!

He staggered to his Hummer, to his team gave “the” finger,
And away they all flew, but long did his stench still linger.
But I heard him yell loudly, as he careened out of sight,
“Happy Bailout to all, and to CEOs a good-night!”

For more information about the “Bailout America” logo, please visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/doctorious/3102369490/