The end of summer is upon us as we wind down the season over the long Labor Day weekend. I thought it appropriate for this August newsletter to cover topics from my summer readings while vacationing in early August. Consider it sort of like that book report we all had to prepare for the first week of school. We went to Saugatuk, MI for family vacation as we have every summer for more than a decade, but this time we took two consecutive weeks in this Cape Cod-like Midwestern retreat on Lake Michigan. The extra week changed the pace of everything. It was a magical trip of communing with nature, family and friends through running, kayaking, beaching, car racing, live music, dining, and, of course, reading, or in my case listening to a books on Audible. (I found that I retain more information by hearing rather than reading.) This is the tale of the experience as seen through the lens of my summer readings.
The odyssey began by climbing the 282 steps to the top of Mount Baldhead, or simply Mt. Baldy, above Oval Beach on Lake Michigan. At the top of the mountain, I spied three tents of knowledge - one for Steve Case, one for Aldous Huxley, and one for Ben Bernanke. I traveled from tent to tent soaking in each sage's wisdom.
The first tent was called Revolution after Steve Case's venture capital firm. Steve is an American entrepreneur, investor, and businessman best known as the co-founder and former chief executive officer and chairman of America Online (AOL). AOL was the leading company at the dawn of the consumer internet. Steve wanted to talk to me about his new book "The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur's Vision of the Future."
Case predicts the future of the U.S. economy and describes what he calls the "Third Wave of the Internet." AOL and other companies introduced early consumers to the Internet in the first wave. Then search giants such as Google and companies such as Apple have led us into the second wave of the internet, the app economy. The third wave that Steve envisions will be "the Internet of things", in which every experience, product, and service will be transacted online. He imagines this Third Wave as being much less tech focused and more driven by centers of expertise in sector verticals. He sees the tech geeks partnering with the industry experts to develop sector tailored tech enabled solutions. He foresees partnerships developing in healthcare, agribusiness, manufacturing and production and other industries around existing, longstanding centers of excellence across every region of America. These regions will have network density of expertise within sectors. For example, in healthcare services we think of Mayo Clinic or in agribusiness with think of the Midwest and America's bread basket. No longer will all the technological answers flow predominantly from Silicon Valley and the Bay area. Other regions of the country will also prosper in what Steve refers to as the Rise of the Rest. He foresees that skills around creativity and collaboration will be of critical importance in the Third Wave. He punctuated this point with an African proverb that describes the requirements for success in the Third Wave - “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
I thanked Steve for sharing his wisdom and moved on to the second tent called "The Doors of Perception" hosted by Aldous Huxley. Aldous was an English writer, novelist, and philosopher. He is the author of nearly fifty books. His best known work is his novel "Brave New World", set in a dystopian future while his non-fiction work "The Doors of Perception" recalls his experiences taking mescaline, a psychedelic drug.
Aldous relayed that Jim Morrison named his Los Angeles based band The Doors after Huxley's groundbreaking book. The book itself was a reference to a quote made by poet William Blake, "If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite." Huxley relayed that Morrison had developed an alcohol dependency that sadly led to his very early death at 27.
Aldous relayed that young Jimmy was unable to effectively process his feelings of indignation, fear and doubt. Huxley believed that "when we bury our feelings of indignation, fear and doubt, we bury them alive." He believes it is physically and psychologically unhealthy to bury disagreeable emotions. We need to transform these hurts into something beautiful, virtuous, and personally fulfilling. He says that is the way to open the doors of peace and prosperity. He suggested that we need to practice mercy by never holding on to the bitterness. We should be prone to forgiveness, and suppress the desire for revenge. He recommended reading "The Paradoxical Commandments" by Dr. Kent Keith as a way to open the transformative doors of perception. Huxley's favorite version of "The Paradoxical Commandments" was written on a wall in Saint Teresa of Calcutta's home for children entitled "Do It Anyway."
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and Your God. It was never between you and them anyway.
I bid Aldous adieu and headed on to the third and final tent hosted by former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Now I must tell you a few things before we relay the wisdom imparted by Bearded Ben. First of all, Ben's tent was not a tent at all, but an orange Volkswagen vanagon. Secondly, it was the most popular of the three sites, more popular than Case's Revolution tent, and Huxley's Doors of Perception. There was a large crowd milling about the vanagon and the air was thick with anticipation like just before a Door's concert was about to begin. I asked Ben what the story was with the massive crowd.
Ben advised that he believed the people were attracted to the wisdom of his gray beard and proceeded to regale me with the history of the beard. He advised that the Judeo-Christian tradition teaches us that God created man in His own image and that custom holds that God has a beard. God’s beard, called Mazal, is seen as the source of all life and sustenance in creation. Mazal literally means “flow” and all fortune and goodness “flows” from God’s beard. God's beard has thirteen knots and the untangling of these knots allows sustenance or God's mercy to flow, leading to good fortune, wisdom, and personal fulfillment.
I was amazed at Ben's knowledge of facial hair, but had a Paul Harvey-like intuition that there was more to this story. I commented to Ben that his gray beard was quite fashionable and perhaps "good fortune" and wisdom may flow from his beard, but surely that cannot be the sole reason for the large crowd around his VW. I pressed him again and again until he finally confided to me that the VW vanagon came equipped with a printing press. And, very shortly at a touch of a button "good fortune" would flow from his VW like manna from heaven.
And that is how I spent my summer vacation.