This is my last Drift column for SLHI.* I’m cleaning out my office after 16 rewarding and productive years. It never ceases to amaze me how incredibly lucky I’ve been to get paid for doing what I love: reading, writing, learning new things, hanging out with stimulating people and doing good work. I never had a game plan – I stumbled into interesting things and fashioned a life as I went along. Patterns emerge, but only through the rear view mirror.
Anyway, I’ll be drifting on. Here are a few odds and ends from the clutter of my so-called “working” life. It’s free form. It’s what brought me to this point, so it might as well take me out.
- It is better to be approximately right than exactly wrong.
- The best educational model is the arts: skill development, performance-based, teamwork, immediate feedback, lifelong learning and enjoyment. Every parent should champion arts education.
- Keep some things hidden. Too much information and exposure kill the imagination. We are at our best pursuing what is only partially revealed, whether it’s a relationship or a problem to be solved. Be suggestive, not literal.
- Philanthropy is an exercise in moral philosophy, or deciding among competing versions of the good. Many people find philosophical reflection difficult if not tedious, so they turn to more linear and algorithmic approaches, such as strategic planning and a “results-driven life.” Strategic planning is an excuse for what a strong leader will do anyway. Better to look for strong and imaginative leaders in the first place.
- Good management is an oxymoron. Management is often necessary, but it is never good. Surround yourself with self-managers, and you won’t have to worry about it.
- Health care reform won’t occur until people have to pay for more of their care themselves and the high flyers in the system make less money. We will have to experience considerably more pain than we are feeling now for that to happen.
- The most prominent American disease is Dissociative Identity Disorder, or the popular misconception of it: a split personality disorder that goes from an emphasis on individual liberty to the importance of community with nary a clue as to the integrated nature of the transition.
- Power is earned, not conferred. I learned this the hard way, when I was appointed CEO and thought I was actually in charge.
- If you’re looking for the purpose of life, forget it. Life itself has no purpose. People bring purpose to life, not vice versa. The only thing worse than looking for the purpose of life is finding it and then feeling compelled to tell others what it is.
- The most successful people are those who have gone through repeated failures and still are optimistic about their lives. If you want to become successful, look for opportunities to fail. The same is true for organizations. Foundations could learn a lot from failure if only they weren’t so timid.
- Disappear into leadership. Surround yourself with talented, committed people. Invest in them, encourage them. The world will roll at your feet.
- Life begins at 50, and here’s why: In the first 50 years you have spent 17 years sleeping, 14 years preparing to work, 9 years working and 10 years escaping from work. With an average of only 10 to 20 percent of your life so far based on anything that might be classified as productive, you have little choice but to start anew at 50 – or any other age for that matter.
- Clarity emerges from practice, not practice from clarity. You don’t need to figure it all out beforehand. Just get started, and the way will reveal itself if you are open to it.
- “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” The refrain from Nature Boy. It’s the truest thing I know.
* The Drift will live on – for the time being – at Dr. Contrarian’s Guide to the Universe: www.drcontrarian.com.
Feedback? Send it my way: Roger.Hughes@slhi.org.
The Drift reflects the views of the author, and does not represent the official view of SLHI’s Board of Trustees and staff.