Sunday, December 6, 2009

Infinite possibilities


Today is the day after the bi-annual AASR Honours ceremony her in southern California. Our hosts, the Valley of San Diego, put on a magnificent event. It was indeed an honour to be in the company of so many distinguished masons - "the future leaders of the Rite," as our SGIG put it.

As I think back on the day, I am stuck on one thing that was said by our KCCH candidate. To paraphrase him, he said that the working tools of the craft are finite. But, there exists an infinite amount of possible uses for these tools in a mason's life. Infinite possible uses and an infinite amount of possible combinations. Talk about an amazing tool box.

I remain convinced that the Scottish Rite is the preeminent leadership academy for men. The lessons of the degrees of the Rite are just as valid today as they were when Bro. Pike put pen to paper. One has but to knock on the door and ask to be admitted. Something so freely given, yet so powerful.

The active candidate for the 33rd degree mentioned that the learning never stops. That even though he had reached the 33rd and last degree, there is still much to do - still room to grow and improve. What an amazing thought and motivator.

More on this amazing night soon ... I'm still processing it all.

Until then, enjoy.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Intendant of the Building


In facilitating a recent discussion on Pike's Morals and Dogma vs. Morals and Dogma for the 21st Century, I mentioned that Pike was very intentional in his writings - choosing specific words to convey a specific meaning and tone. Take the title of the the 8th Degree - Intendant of the Building.

Intendant: a political position first developed by Cardinal Richelieu during the reign of French King Louis XIII. Under Louis XIV, the intendant became the most important means for centralizing royal authority. The intendant was usually a non-noble, so his power and position were directly dependent on the favor of the king. He was granted full power over finance, justice and police. He could try cases, unseat judges, collect taxes and regulate local municipal governments among other powers.

Pike says in Morals and Dogma, "In this Degree you have been taught the important lesson, that none are entitled to advance in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, who have not by study and application made themselves familiar with Masonic learning and jurisprudence. ... How far you advance, depends upon yourself alone."

So, what does this opening statement have to do with the title of the degree? Tons.

With the 8th degree, the candidate learns that the progress of civilization and organizations is based upon the transmission of knowledge to subsequent generations. It is education that binds generations together. Without a commitment to education, no society or company can endure. Masonry illustrates this commitment through the work of its members in guiding the candidate’s journey thru the degrees and beyond.

As the candidate becomes a Master of the Royal Secret, and is thus made a full member of the Valley and of Scottish Rite Masonry, it is his responsibility to know his responsibilities - to become familiar with Masonic learning and jurisprudence. The same is true in any business. A new hire must quickly become familiar with the organization's culture, customs, rules, and norms.

Many companies have introductory sessions for new hires, employee handbooks, mentors, or other ways to assure that knowledge is passed from one generation of employee to the next. Masonry is no different. The employee who familiarizes himself with this new information the quickest - and who can use this new information to his advantage - will easily find opportunities to excel and promote. As Pike says, "How far you advance, depends on yourself alone."

As an Intendant, you should have the full knowledge of the lessons, traditions, and codes that make up Masonry (or your business) in order properly wield the power to which you have been entrusted. Remember, "how far you advance, depends upon yourself alone."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In whom do you put your trust?


I came across an old book whilst searching through Google's book site. It's called The Triumph over Midian by A.L.O.E. - 1894.

In the preface to the story, the author makes an interesting comment, "A humble task has been mine; that of endeavouring to show that the same faith by which heroes of old out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to fight the armies of the aliens, is still, as the gift of God's grace, bestowed upon the lowliest Christian." [ital. from the original]

It reminded me of the comment made during the first degree when the Wor. Master asks the aspirant, "in whom do you put your trust?" Over 100 years ago, the author's comment mirror's the Wor. Master's response to the aspirant's answer.

It made me think about current literature. Who are our heroes? What values do they demonstrate? Do we see these types of morality plays in modern literature?

As part of a commentary on the book (beautifully reprinted by Lamplighter Publishing), I found the following passage:

The Midianites of the heart, wreak havoc in our lives.
  • Disappointment, the intruder who leaves a famine in our soul.
  • Discontent, the thief who robs us of all peace.
  • Dissension, the leader of hatred who poisons our joy.
  • Distrust, the most dangerous enemy of all, who incites paralyzing fear of what the morrow might bring.
Similar in theme is the 6th Degree in the Scottish Rite - the Intimate Secretary. The 6th degree examines duty and conflict. Conflict can be seen as a business problem and is a common destroyer of relationships and organizations if not handled properly. The candidate is instructed on the ways to be peaceful, avoiding violence and argument, and respecting differences of opinion. He is warned against taking sides; seeing that is better to seek the common ground that unites people of reason.

Disappointment can be seen as a conflict between an anticipated response and actual results.
Discontent can be seen as a conflict between what you have and what you want.
Dissension is actual conflict, disagreement, quarrel, or discord.
With Distrust, the conflict is between various unknowns.

Pike counters conflict with duty.

From Morals and Dogma, Pike says, "You are especially taught in this Degree to be zealous and faithful; to be disinterested and benevolent; and to act the peacemaker, in the case of dissensions, disputes, and quarrels among the brethren." He goes on to say, "Duty is the moral magnetism which controls and guides the true Mason's course over the tumultuous seas of life."

Pike's comments stir thoughts of servant leadership when he says, "Suffer other to be praised in thy presence, and entertain their good and glory with delight; but at no hand disparage them, or lessen the report, or make an objection; and think not the advancement of thy brother is lessening of thy worth. Upbraid no man's weakness to him to discomfit him, neither report it to disparage him, neither delight to remember it to lessen him, or set thyself above him; nor ever praise thyself or dispraise any man else ..."

The First degree, the 6th degree, and Gideon's victory over the Midianites ... all tied to good leadership qualities? Trust someone who is worthy of your trust. Act the peacemaker - both with others and within yourself. Mediate conflicts in a disinterested and benevolent (win-win) fashion. Don't speak ill of others. Take joy in the successes of those around you.

Sounds like good advice to me.

Thursday, October 15, 2009



The concept of legacy returns again in the 16th degree. The candidate is asked, “will you leave the world in a better state than you found it?” This time, legacy is examined from an intentional standpoint, of starting with the end in mind. In this, the second of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, your image of the end of your life becomes a reference by which everything else is measured. You set the image and then purposefully go about your life to fulfill your dreams and desires.

The 16th Degree considers relationships in terms of the way we treat the people over whom we have power – suggesting mercy and generosity. The lessons council that there may be a time when we need to restrain ourselves and be patient, temporarily resigning our own interests for another’s advantage. This strategy of patience and restraint is the hallmark of the Asian business model.

So, how then do you go about leaving the world in a better state? Certainly, it's done one purposeful step at a time. Pike said, "This Masonry teaches, as a great Truth; a great moral landmark, that out to guide the course of all mankind. It teaches its toiling children that the scene of their daily life is all spiritual, that the very implements of their toil, the fabrics they weave, the merchandise they barter, are designed for spiritual ends; that so believing, their daily lot may be to them a sphere for the noblest improvement."

Look at the things that you do in your day. How do you view them? Is work a chore? Is it a blessing? It's all in how you see it, or frame it, that counts. If you are seeing work as a chore, then you need to reframe how you see it. Remember to put all of your best efforts into your work. Your work, after all, recommends you. Imagine each day that you are auditioning for your job - that employment the next day depends on how well you perform today (in this troubled economy - that sentiment is not too far from the truth most times). Look at yourself honestly. Would you hire you? Would you follow you? If not, why?

Sure, times are tough. But, as Pike said, "very near to us lies the mines of wisdom; unsuspected they lie al around us. There is a secret in the simplest things, a wonder in the plainest, a charm in the dullest." A happy and content life is all in how you see it.

In terms of legacy, why not choose a happy and contented life. "To every [leader] there will be opportunity enough for these. They cannot be written on his tomb; but they will be written deep in the hearts of men, of friends, of children, of kindred all around him, in the book of great account, and, in their eternal influences, on the great pages of the Universe.

Still think you won't leave your mark on this world? Think again.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Degrees of Leadership - a short talk


I just sent the short talk version of Degrees of Leadership to Amazon for publishing on Kindle. If approved, it'll be available for purchase/download on the Kindle Service in a few days.

It's a perfect bite sized version of the upcoming book, as well as being an outstanding 25 minute "short talk" for Lodge meetings.

Thanks for reading and thanks for your support.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Book Review - Not Everyone Gets a Trophy


As the membership rolls of many of America’s Masonic Lodges dwindle, Lodges consolidate, and Masonic charities struggle with their fundraising goals, Masonry is looking to Generation Y, some 70 million strong, to save the day. Yet, when older Masons reach out to these young men, they are having trouble understanding, connecting with, and retaining this vibrant and energetic generation. Thankfully, there is help.

Bruce Tulgan’s Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y is an important guide for understanding what drives and defines this “high-maintenance” generation. It examines the myths about this often misunderstood group of young men (and women), all whilst offering practical guidance on harnessing and redirecting Gen Y’s creativity and intellect without having to completely re-work Masonry’s unique culture. Just kidding … sort of.

While the focus of the book is on managing and leading Gen Y in the workplace, much like Robert D. Putnam’s Bowling Alone, there is an incredible wealth of information available in this easy-to-read volume, much of which can be applied to the Craft.

Starting with Gen Y’s roll as a potential member your Lodge, Tulgan notes that Gen Y is the most “work-life balance” focused generation. (The lessons of the lecture on the 24 inch gauge will ring especially true to Gen Y.) As such, the questions in their minds whilst being interviewed for potential membership are not about whether they will fit into your Lodge, but whether and how Masonry will fit into their lives and busy schedules.

Every Mason can remember his first visit to Lodge. The same things that were on your mind then are going through a Gen Y candidate’s mind now. “Where am I? What is this place? What is going on here? … Who are all these people? What role does each person play? How are they accustomed to doing things around here? … Why am I here? What is at stake for me? (Kindle Loc. 1286-93)” The answers today are the much the same as when you were their age, they are just packaged in different terms. This book helps you to speak their language.

There is a polular belief among the older generations that Gen Y arrives expecting the top job from day one (Tulgan’s myth number four). According to Tulgan, this represents not overconfidence, but simply the passionate propensity of Gen Y to take on the unclaimed, uncharted, or undiscovered as the quickest way to gain respect and to be taken seriously. This overconfidence, however, can get Gen Y into trouble in the Lodge Room. Tulgan notes that leaders need to institute a proactive, consistent, and continual mentoring relationship to ensure that these new Entered Apprentices work well with their new Lodge brothers. Remember the lesson of the 4th Degree of the Scottish Rite, "may one command who does not know how to obey?" This teaching the young Mason how to be a proper follower includes spelling out desired behaviors, norms, and communication styles, including the venerable “Masonic Tradition." “You cannot—and should not—teach them what to believe, but you can certainly teach them how to behave. ... [I]t is certainly your place to teach them how to be good citizens within your organization. (Kindle Loc. 1589-61).”

Another dominant Gen Y stereotype that the author seeks to dispel is the belief that Gen Y is generally disloyal or disinclined towards staying in one place for too long. The author counters this myth by describing a new brand of loyalty, one he calls “transactional loyalty.” Unlike the previous generations who were trained to accept the chain of command and long-range rewards, Gen Y’s transactional loyalty is based on optimising their unique needs and wants, which often includes their need to continuously learn from and glean as much as they can from each new encounter. Like the lessons illustrated in 19th Degree, they are very much interested in building bridges to the future. This passion can be harnessed, focussed towards common goals.

Rigorous self-evaluation is not just a key component of learning good judgment. It is the beginning, middle, and end of self-management. It is the essential habit of self-improvement."

Masters who follow “traditional” management approaches might completely misinterpret Gen Y’s attitudes and behaviors and miss the real value of this generation as key contributors to our country’s Lodges. This book illuminates Gen Y’s many gifts in the Lodgeroom and lays out a outstanding approach to help Masters and Wardens update their leadership styles.

The bottom line is that whilst every generation brings new talents and values to the Lodgeroom, decoding the uniqueness of the Gen Y state of mind makes this book a worth a look. The fact that it’s available both in print and on Kindle makes it even better.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Leaders and Followers


I was thinking of leaders and followers in light of the current health care debate in Congress ...

With the solid foundation of instruction gained in the Craft Lodge, the Master Mason begins his journey in the Scottish Rite with the Lodge of Perfection.

Many themes are utilized in conferring the lessons of the degrees of this Lodge including, an enlightened citizenry (4°-6°), an independent judiciary (7°), an economic order based on capital and labor (8°), the upper house of the legislature (9°), the lower house of the legislature (10°), trial by jury (11°), the chief executive (12°), and a constitution or fundamental set of laws (13°).

The lessons are set against the historical backdrop of the Old Testament; the building of King Solomon’s Temple and the Babylonian captivity.

The Lodge of Perfection begins with the 4th degree and asks the question that strikes at the heart of the leader/follower relationship, “may one command who does not know how to obey?

Any study of leadership should wisely consider what it means to follow. In the Scottish Rite, a candidate learns first to practice obedience, silence, and fidelity as fit attributes for a follower. The type of followers that the Scottish Rite seeks are participants, actively engaged in the process and in support of the aims of the organization ...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Altruism vs. Benevolence


I wanted to share this paper that I wrote in criticism of a book called Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership – Casting Light or Shadow by C. Johnson for a class in leadership ethics. I think it makes some important distinctions between altruism and benevolence in light of current events.

“Advocates of altruism argue that love of neighbor is the ultimate ethical standard. … Our actions should be designed to help others whatever the personal cost (Johnson, Pg. 153).”

“It is obvious – historically, philosophically, and psychologically – that altruism is an inexhaustible source of rationalizations for the most evil motives, the most inhuman actions, the most loathsome emotions. It is not difficult to grasp the meaning of the tenet that the good is the object of sacrifice – and to understand what a blanket damnation of anything living is represented by an undefined accusation of ‘selfishness’ (Rand, Pg. 163).”

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term altruism was introduced by the 19th century philosopher, Auguste Comte. By altruism, Comte meant that sense of sacrifice to society or taking the good of others as the highest good. In today’s society, most – lacking an education in philosophy and taking the publics’ word on the subject - take the term to mean a basic decency or generosity. The author seems to split the difference, whilst acknowledging Comte’s original meaning.

Unfortunately for the author, altruism is not the foundation of good will towards others. Altruism is incompatible with good will and love – and freedom. Freedom, at is most basic form, is the power to act without intimidation by others. Altruism requires the sacrifice of the individual to the collective. It is this requirement that makes altruism antithetical to freedom and removes it from any credible list of virtues.

Furthermore, the author uses the word “selfish” to describe the regard for one’s own welfare to the disregard of the well-being of others. This is a rather sinister twist on the original definition and shows the author’s bias and political view point. Pure “selfishness” is simply the concern for one’s own interests. The author seems to suggest that right acts are those taken to benefit others and wrong acts are performed to one’s own benefit (Rand, 1970).

Contrary to the author’s assertions that altruism is good for people, businesses and society in general, “altruism permits no concept of a self-respecting, self-supporting man—a man who supports his own life by his own effort and neither sacrifices himself nor others … it permits no concept of benevolent co-existence among men … it permits no concept of justice (Rand, ix).”
With all of this in mind, is there an alternative to altruism? Is there a cooperative method of dealing with people and businesses – one that benefits both parties whilst respecting their rights and differences? Certainly – it’s called benevolence.

Contrary to the view of the creators and editors of Wikipedia, benevolence and altruism are not synonyms. Unlike altruism, benevolence is completely compatible with freedom. Benevolence is a commitment to achieving the values derivable from life with other people in society, by treating them as potential trading partners, recognizing their humanity, independence and individuality, and the harmony between their interests and ours. Benevolence is thus clearly rationally selfish. It is not a sacrifice of one’s interests to those of others. Rather it reaffirms a positive view of human beings and recognizes the potential of humans (Kelley, 2003).

Of the many charitable groups that exist in the world, one can be singled out as purely benevolent – the Freemasons. Around the world, Masons give away over one million US dollars per day to various charitable causes, and each body within Masonry has it’s own cause. The Blue Lodge (the first 3 degrees of Masonry) supports the local public schools with donations of time and money. The York Rite offers free eye care to needy children and young adults. The Scottish Rite offers free speech pathology services to children. The Shrine Hospitals offer a multitude of free services in the communities that they serve. These are but a few examples. Local Masons also run the Midnight Mission, a downtown Los Angeles homeless shelter and service center.

At the core of each Masonic charitable enterprise, you will find the benevolent attitude of the individual contributing Mason – giving a portion of his wages as an investment in his community’s (and country’s) future. Each charity supports a central theme, supporting those in need with dignity and respect to both the donor and the recipient. The donor is free to give or not give. The recipient is free to receive or not receive – they have but to ask.

As a Mason, I have a certain sense of pride that the money and time that I give to the various charities I and my Lodge support goes to help people increase their capacity to live a free and independent life. The gift of sight to a nearly blind child (York Rite), the gift of language to a budding learner (Scottish Rite), the gift of freedom of movement to a crippled child (Shrine), and the gift of a free thinking mind (Blue Lodge) are all worthy investments. I agree with Steve O. (a classmate) when he said that if only the [altruists] would get out of our way financially (over-taxation), we would have more to give to worthy charities.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Judge yourself


The lecture of the 31st degree instructs the candidate to judge himself in the same light as he judges others, considering both actions and motives.

In the previous lessons, the candidate was counseled to lead and teach by example. Here he is taught to learn by observation and reflection. Temperance is also advised in setting goals; aiming for the best, but being content with the best possible. This lesson is featured as “Rule #44” in Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior, “When a man does all he can, though it succeed not well, blame not him that did it.”

Monday, August 24, 2009

Language and Knowledge


I was thinking about the economy and people in need. With all the talk about uninsured people, I was thinking about Masonic charities and how they continue to deliver quality care without fee to the recipient - all without the help of government. In particular, I was thinking about the Scottish Rite's Language Centers that help children with speech problems. As my 20 month old son says, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy," I can't imagine being a parent of a child who can't say "Daddy" or "Momma." It would just break my heart. Seeing the looks on the parents faces, having sent their kids though our program in Pasadena, makes my donations of time and money worth every cent.

In the 8th degree, the candidate learns that the progress of civilization and organizations is based upon the transmission of knowledge to subsequent generations. It is education that binds generations together. Without a commitment to education, no society or company can endure.

Question for reflection: What role does the use of language play in the transmission of knowledge? Can knowledge be transmitted without language?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Lighting a troubled path


In these challenging economic times, people are looking everywhere for answers to the troubles that lie before them. Many, who are recently unemployed, are finding that employment in their previous vocation is no longer possible. When faced with such a situation, what is a man to do?

The 25th degree challenges the notion of the static self. It shows the candidate how it is often necessary to start fresh, to re-create or reform one’s self in order to fulfill one’s destiny. Are you “the same person” that you were when you became a Mason? How have you grown and changed since then? What lessons have you learned?

When facing tough choices, get back to basics. Remember the valuable lessons of the 25th Degree. These lessons can be the light that illuminates your path.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Opening paragraphs of Degrees of Leadership

Here are the unedited opening paragraphs for my upcoming book, Degrees of Leadership. I'll be posting snippets as the weeks progress and we draw closer to the publication date.

Degrees of Leadership
Chapter 1

It started simply enough; he wanted to become a Mason so he asked a Mason about joining the Lodge. He’d seen the movies; the Man Who Would Be King, the Di Vinci Code, and the National Treasure were among his personal favorites. As much as he’d researched the Craft and its symbols, he really had no idea what he was in for on his initiation day.

He stood on the street corner in a busy part of town. The Mason who had come to his house to question him about his motives for joining left him with the top half of a playing card. He said to be at a particular street corner on a certain day and time. Another Mason was to meet him there and present the bottom half of the card. “Follow the man and do as you are told” was all the instruction that he received.

At the appointed hour, almost as if by clockwork, the man with the card’s bottom half appeared. “Follow me” was all he said. That was how the adventure began.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Duly and truly prepared

"That which we do in our intervals of relaxation, our church-going, and our book-reading, are especially designed to prepare our minds for the action of Life. We are to hear and read and meditate, that we may act well; and the action of Life is itself the great field for spiritual improvement." - Albert Pike


How do you spend your free time? What types of things occupy your attention? Many professions have a "continuing education requirement." Does yours? What does this all have to do with leadership?

One of the fundamental teachings of the Scottish Rite is that of continual self-improvement through education. This process is time consuming and can't really be done in one sitting or at a weekend seminar. So, how much time do you take to improve yourself?

Some people rise a little early to exercise or read. Some do this before bed time. Some take a longer lunch period. Regardless of when its done, the fact that it becomes part of their daily ritual is important. It means taking some "me time." It means being dedicated and committed to the process of improving yourself.

Take a moment each day and use it to your advantage. Don't short change your own growth and development. Prepare your mind for action. Participate and take ownership of your path. You'll find that your confidence will grow exponentially.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sentiment vs. Principles

"Most men have sentiments, but not principles. The former are temporary sensations, the latter permanent and controlling impressions of goodness and virtue. The former are general and voluntary, and do not rise to the character of virtue. Every one feels them. They flash up spontaneously in every heart. The latter are rules of action, and shape and control our conduct; and it is these that Masonry insists upon." - Albert Pike


We see today the consequences of living in the world of sentiment, of cause and effect. Guiding principles have been tossed aside in favour of what feels good. Sure it feels good to help out a struggling business, bank, or social charity. It feels good when you do it with your own money; of your own free will and accord. When you are forced to pay, it no longer feels good ... right?

Many have said that ignorance is our country's most expensive commodity. We are sure seeing that expense come due today. It is that ignorance that leads many to make poor decisions. It is that ignorance, combined with an attention to sentiment that leads to ruin for so many.

What are the keys to success in life? Enlightenment ... which comes from moral knowledge and principled action. Why do we see so much despair, so many families struggling to get by, so many people out of work? A lack of bravery and devotedness to principled living.

It takes bravery to stand up for your principles. Think about the person who didn't refinance his home in order to install a pool in his back yard. Think about the man who rents an apartment that he can afford. See both as living within their means. Yet around them, advertisements and friends poke and prod the two to "live the American dream." You can have it all, right? Hardly. The friends that taunted them on their way up "the success ladder" are now begging them for help on their way down. Yet will all of this going on around them, the two stood steadfast and lived a principled life.

Look around you. Do you see lives destroyed by sentiment and a lack of principles? Do you read of such calamities in the newspapers? Do they not pull at your heart strings? Would you trade your principled life for their life of sentiment? It is, after all, quite seductive. Resist temptation and stay devoted to your path.

The old charge tells us to circumscribe our desires and keep our passions within due bounds. As it turns out, this is an ancient recipe for success in life.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

When is a man a Mason?


The following is taken from an old pamphlet. It's called When is a man a Mason. It could also have been called When is a man a Leader.

When is a man a Mason?

When he can look out over the rivers, the hills, and the far horizon with a profound sense of his own littleness in the vast scheme of things, and yet have faith, hope, and courage -- which is the root of every virtue.

When he knows that down in his heart every man is as noble, as vile, as divine, as diabolic, and as lonely as himself, and seeks to know, to forgive, and to love his fellowman.

When he knows how to sympathize with men in their sorrows, yea, even in their sins - knowing that each man fights a hard fight against many odds.

When he has learned how to make friends and to keep them, and above all how to keep friends with himself.

When he loves flowers, can hunt birds without a gun, and feels the thrill of an old forgotten joy when he hears the laugh of a little child.

When he can be happy and high-minded amid the meaner drudgeries of life.

When star-crowned trees and the glint of sunlight on flowing waters subdue him like the thought of one much loved and long dead.

When no voice of distress reaches his ears in vain, and no hand seeks his aid without response.

When he finds good in every faith that helps any man to lay hold of divine things and sees majestic meanings in life, whatever the name of that faith may be.

When he can look into a wayside puddle and see something beyond mud, and into the face of the most forlorn fellow mortal and see something beyond sin.

When he knows how to pray, how to love, how to hope.

When he has kept faith with himself, with his fellowman, and with his God; in his hand a sword for evil, in his heart a bit of a song -- glad to live, but not afraid to die!

Such a man has found the only real secret of Masonry, and the one which it is trying to give to all the world.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fidelity, Constancy, and Perserverance


The following is a short talk that I recently gave at my Valley's Stated Meeting. Some of the Brothers suggested that I post it here. I am happy to do so, with a little editing.

Greetings brothers,

I’d like to offer my thanks to our Venerable Master for asking me to start off this series tonight. This series of educational talks is all about putting a little bit of the classroom into the Stated Meeting. As the Classroom Director, I am certainly happy to help out. I promise to keep it short. I further promise that you’ll be left with a lot to contemplate.

Being a part of the Rose Croix line of officers, I wanted to stay within the degrees of the Chapter. Tonight, I’ll focus on the 15th degree as I think it has much to say about the situation that we find ourselves in … both in Masonry and in general society.

As we do not perform the 15th degree here, and many will not have seen the degree in action, I’d like to briefly describe for you some of the key symbols of the degree.

The hat, cordon, gloves, and apron all predominantly feature the colour green. Green represents the immortality of the soul – and even the immortality of Masonry itself. In the centre of the apron are three nested gold triangles, made from chains with triangular links and said to represent the chains on the human intellect – tyranny, superstition, and privilege. The jewel of the degree is made from three nested triangles of gold – symbolizing liberty, equality and fraternity; and also law, order, and subordination. Inside the triangles are two crossed swords, points up, resting on the innermost triangle – representing truth and justice.

The candidate is received in this degree as Zerubbabel – a name that should be familiar to us all.

Thus the 15th degree opens, as does the Chapter of Rose Croix. The people of Israel have been seemingly abandoned by God and are living in captivity under the Babylonian king Cyrus.


Why does it seem that God has abandoned them? What set of circumstances allowed for the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon? What is the role that God has chosen for Zerubbabel? As Zerubbabel travels from Jerusalem to Babylon, in which direction is this journey headed?

This degree teaches that the destruction of the temple and the long captivity in Babylon were due in large part to the people’s worship of lesser gods. Pike illuminates on this, not by listing the gods themselves, but by listing the obstacles to the success of Masonry. I’d like to think that they are one and the same - Apathy, Faithlessness, and Indifference.

Regardless of your religion, do your scriptures teach you to be lukewarm? Do they preach a doctrine of carelessness? Do they say to be indifferent to the cares and concerns of your fellowman? Hardly.

According to Pike, Fidelity to our obligations, Constancy and Perseverance under difficulties and discouragements are the leading lessons of this degree.

Pike wrote:
“He who endeavors to serve, to benefit, and to improve the world, is like a swimmer, who struggles against a rapid current, in a river lashed into angry waves by the winds. Often they roar over his head, often they beat him back and baffle him. Most yield to the stress of the current, and float with it to the shore, or are swept over the rapids; and only here are there the stout, strong heart and vigorous arms struggle on toward ultimate success.”

Pike goes on to say that
“… the only true question for us to ask, as true men and Masons, is, what does duty require; and not what will be the result and reward if we do our work.”

Nehemiah 4:17-18 says, “… work with sword in hand.” Pike adds to this to say “… work with the sword in one hand and the trowel in the other.”

Faithlessness can drain the life out of you. Watch the news. Read a paper. You may begin to believe the lies that are being sold to you. Masonry teaches that God formed man’s eternal soul for a purpose. It teaches that all of the events and actions of the world are part of God’s plan.

In the First Degree, each candidate is asked a simple question, in Whom do you put your trust? What was your answer?

Your trust being in God, you rose and were instructed to fear not what man could do unto you.

What’s changed?

What do you have to fear now?

As leaders of men, it’s up to us to demonstrate the teachings of this degree in our daily lives. It means that we are not apathetic, indifferent, or lacking in faith. If anything, these troubling times should cause us to count our blessings.

To Masons, Zerubbabel is the type of leader who is worthy of emulation. According to our Illustrious Bro. Rex Hutchens, he “perseveres, encourages the disheartened, cheers the timid, incites the indolent, forces the apathetic and reluctant, and has incorruptible fidelity to honor and duty.”

Masonry can thus be seen as a roadmap out of the current troubles we; Masonry, and our country may find ourselves in.

Fidelity to our obligations:
• Pay our bills on time
• Only take on the obligations that you can realistically support
• Don’t over extend yourself

• Let your yes be yes and your no be no
• Be the stability, the rock that your family needs
• Let your faith be steadfast

• Don’t give up – don’t give in
• Calmly bear the difficulties of life without complaint
• Commitment, hard work, patience, and endurance will see us through this mess that we find ourselves in

This degree begins the construction of the Second Temple out of the ruins of the first. The reconstruction symbolizes the restitution of truth. It also symbolizes liberty and the “state of peace and toleration that will make the earth a fit place to dwell.”

We all stood and took the obligation of this degree. In these troublesome times, can we not become more like Zerubbabel and zealously assist in making our Temple a fit place to dwell?

Thank you, and may God bless and keep you all.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Box


Aside from the weather and the state of the roads, I've all but given up on watching the news on the television. I must admit that the job of the weather and traffic in Los Angeles has got to be one of the easiest to perform. The weather never varies much from the norm - hot in the summer and mild in the winter - and traffic is always bad. There is no more rush hour, the rush extends to all hours. But, I digress ...

Why have I given up on the news? If it bleeds, it leads. Sadness sells. There's a certain profit to be made in showing death, despair, and disease. People seem to delight in seeing that one man who is worse off, as if somehow it will make their lot better.

Pike, in his commentary on the 21st Degree (SJ) wrote "[s]lander and calumny were never so insolently licentious in any country as they are this day in ours." He goes on to say "[j]ournalism pries into the interior of private houses, gloats over the details of domestic tragedies of sin and shame, and deliberately invents and industriously circulates the most unmitigated and baseless falsehoods, to coin money for those who pursue it as a trade, or to effect a temporary result in the wars of faction." He then presents his charge to the reader, "[w]e need not enlarge upon these evils."

Written over 100 years ago, these words could well have been written this morning.

As leaders, do we find ourselves going along with the prevailing "wisdom?" Do we participate in this circus act? Why not just opt out?

"To be modest and unaffected with our superiors is duty; with our equals, courtesy; with our inferiors, nobleness. There is no arrogance so great as the proclaiming of other men's errors and faults, ..."

It's how we treat people that matters most. The Arbinger Institute calls this behaviour, "the box." The box can also be defined as "self-deception." What's that, you ask? Think about the problems facing society, or your company, or your family. You may think it's a problem of leadership, or with a particular group, or a lack of motivation, or a lack of teamwork. You may attribute it to stress or a problems with communication. Arbinger points out that these aren't problems to be solved. They are symptoms of a single, underlying problem.

What problem, you ask?

Acording to Arbinger, "[i]t's the problem that arises when members resist seeing that they themselves are part of the problem." The problem is self-deception.

The news media and the politicians are giving us what they think we are asking for. Ratings dictate the price of ads on the TV. The more "gossipy" the show, the higher the ratings. We cry out for others to fix problems of our own making. So, politicians enact laws to "fix" problems - only making things worse.

We are part of the problem ... so we are also part of the solution. Get out of "the box" towards your fellow man. Don't participate in the "gossip culture." Have faith that good will prevail. Be humble and courteous - and fix your own problems - and you'll be surprised how far you can go in life.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Authenticity and core values


Authenticity and genuineness are critical for the success of a leader. If you don't sound and act like you believe in what you are saying and doing, people will notice. People will notice and take action. You probably won't like the actions that they take.

Recent news commentary focussed on a certain national leader's speech to a audience of supporters. The speech, booked for a half an hour, lasted almost three times that length. The organisers encouraged him to "keep going." He had captivated the audience and was delivering more than what was promised (as usual, I might add). One of the comments made about the event was the fact that he gave the speech without aid of a TelePrompTer. For anyone who has stood before a meeting and gave a five minute talk from memory, it's tough enough. But an hour and a half? That's amazing.

When questioned about it, the man said that he didn't need to be prompted about his core beliefs and values. He said that he keeps his beliefs close to his heart and they mean the world to him. As such, he can (and did) speak at length about the topic without a script. His speech was genuine, from the heart, and authentically his. His results speak for themselves.

The lesson here is that authenticity matters. This particular gentleman has built up a following over the years by sticking to what he does and knows best. He doesn't waver from his core values.

In the 14th Degree (SJ), we learn what it means to keep steadfast and maintain your integrity in the face of adversity. It's easy to do when you keep your core values in your heart and live each day by them. It's easy to be authentic, a genuine person, when you live this way; uncontrived, unscripted.

Be yourself. Be the best "you" that you can be. It's a lot like golf, you aren't trying to be better than me, or better than your neighbour. You are trying each day to be better than yourself. Now imagine if each one of the people around you lived this way. How powerful would that be?

Remember, it starts with you.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Are you free?


Are you free? 

Many jurisdictions ask this question of a candidate upon his first entry of a lodge. Other jurisdictions clear this matter up in the investigation and merely report his status upon questioning. But, it's an interesting question to be asked.

Are you free?

Certainly we're not worried about admitting slaves in today's age. So what are we being asked? 

Are you free and unfettered; body, mind, and soul?

Wow! That's quite a set of questions. Are any of us? The chains that bind are unique to each of us, but why should a lodge's Deacon want to know such information before we are allowed to enter?

When requesting Secret clearance or higher, a person is thoroughly investigated. All ties, contacts, relatives, debt ... a complete profile is built of this person. Is he/she worthy of trust? The higher the level of clearance, the deeper the probe goes.

As a leader, you'll ask people to trust you. You'll ask them to put their lives in your hands, and with that, the lives of those that they love as well. If you are not free, are you worthy of that trust? Will you act in their best interests?

A classic example of this is the Madoff scandal. Was he free? Certainly, the evidence proves that he was not. His balance sheet was weighted so far in the negative ... yet he kept this fact from those that trusted him with their savings and their futures. He wasn't free, so he had to keep the stream of new money coming in to keep the illusion of freedom alive. But, as we've seen, it was just an illusion.

So, where does that leave the us? Think about the question, "are you free," when making decisions. See how much your freedom (or lack thereof) influences the decisions that you make as a leader. Look at the decisions made by other leaders and evaluate them based on the same question. It'll give you a whole new perspective on the decision making process.

something to consider

"Today Freemasonry lies in the hand of the modern man largely an unused tool, capable of great achievements for God, for country, for mankind, but doing very little. For one, I believe that circumstances may easily arise, when the highest and most sacred of all freedoms being threatened in this land, Freemasonry may be its most powerful defender, unifying all minds and commanding our best citizenship." - Bishop Potter, taken from The Builder Magazine, December 1915,  Volume 1 Number 15

Almost 100 years later, and Bishop Potter's words still ring true.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bridge Builder


The title of the 19th Degree in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (SJ) is Grand Pontiff. Many outside of masonry chafe at the title and use it as evidence that masonry is preaching its own religion or somehow anti-christian. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Rex Hutchens points out in Bridge to Light that the etymology of the word shows its true meaning and why it was chosen by Pike as the title for the degree. The word is derived from the Latin root words pons, "bridge" + facere, "to do" or "to make", with a literal meaning of "bridge-builder".

Pike begins the 19th chapter of Morals and Dogma with the following:

"The true Mason labors for the benefit of those who are to come after him ..."

In essence, the Mason - in labouring for the benefit of those who are to come - builds a bridge from the present to the future. But its much more than that. He's also extending the bridge that was started generations ago, continuing the work of others, adding his individual touches, and passing it along to those that will come after him. Culturally, we can accomplish much more by looking at an issue from a multi-generational point of view.

As leaders, do we not strive to leave things better than we found them? It's our responsibility to our investors, to our employers, to our customers, and to ourselves to continuously improve. Improve products, services, and ourselves. Everywhere in our country, we can see examples of this ... if we just look for it.

Take Hickman's Family Farms as an example. It's a family owned business that was founded in Arizona in 1944. Bill and Gertie Hickman began something special with a few chickens and a single truck. Today, they're still family owned and operated - with houses holding almost a quarter of a million birds each. It certainly took a while, but the Hickman's children and grandchildren are enjoying the "shade of the trees" planted in the 40's. 

Now that's what I call multi-generational leadership. That's what I call "building bridges" to the future. 

It happens in our lives in subtle ways as well. Do we have enough saved for retirement? Do we have an adequate amount of insurance? Have we prepared a will? A leader thinks of these things and plans for them, factors them in now as well as tomorrow.

Leaders act as bridge builders in other ways as well. They build bridges between cultures, between departments, between employees ... between family and friends. Robert Lomas, in his book Freemasonry and the Birth of Modern Science illustrates this quality of leadership in the interplay between Catholics and Protestants in the English court and how masonry and masonic leadership was used to build bridges between the two camps, uniting them to defeat a common foe. Leaders find ways to bridge divides that separate people - getting them to work together and prosper. Thus, the bridge builder aids in increasing productivity and adds to the bottom line. In today's struggling economy, how important are the bridge builders? Will a bridge builder be seen as an asset or a liability when layoffs loom?

Think today about your role as bridge builder in the lives of those around you. Act as the Grand Pontiff - the great bridge builder - and watch the improvement that happens. It may be slow and subtle ... but it will pay off.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Participation in the process is key

Greetings brothers and friends,

So much of today's learning is passive. Sit in a seminar, a classroom, a theatre, or watch on-line. It rarely puts all of your senses to work. What if you are a tactile learner - needing to get your hands on things to help you figure it out? What then?

Participation is the key. Getting involved with your development. Taking ownership of it. Taking it "by the horns." Being responsible for it. Albert Pike said, " ... [h]e who would become an accomplished Mason must not be content merely to hear, or even to understand, the lectures; he must, aided by them, and they having, as it were, marked out the way for him, study, interpret, and develop these symbols for himself." Take it and make it your own.

Whatever it is that you are doing, take it and make it your own. Participate in its success. Make its success your success. Master it, and thus master yourself. 

Leadership is certainly not a passive activity. Endeavour today to get off the sidelines and participate. Success is out there - you just have to go after it. Remember, a true leader is one who labours strenuously to help effect great purposes. Wouldn't you like to be that leader? If so, what are you waiting for? Participate.

A new beginning

Greetings Brothers and friends.

So many people have an adverse view of Masons and Masonry. I want to change that by opening up the discussion about what it is and what it isn't. Yes, I am a Mason. No, I won't be revealing any of the "secrets" of Masonry. But, in a way ... I'll be opening up the door of the lodge room to show Masonry in a different light. I'll be showing Masonry to be an operative science, even for speculative masons.

What do I mean by this? Simple. We're not hammering away at stones anymore. We're in the workplace, in the fields, on the streets ... in the everyday world. Masonry has helped us become better men, better employees, better husbands / fathers, and better warriors. In short, Masonry has helped us to become better leaders. Leaders of others and leaders of ourselves.

In the following posts, and in upcoming books and speaking engagements, I'll be opening the door to let the world see this aspect of the craft - Masonry as a Leadership Academy.

"A true Mason labors for the benefit of those who will come after him ... To plant the trees that, after we are dead, shall shelter our children, is as natural as to love the shade of those that our fathers planted." - Albert Pike