Human Nature

In his book Return on Character Fred Kiel addresses human nature and how it relates to business, success, and relationships.  Kiel focuses on basic moral behaviors and attributes that humans display, and he explains that while morality may manifest and be presented in different manners based on culture, there are some key moral ideas and principles that humans seem to show across the globe.  He bumps up agains the idea of a universal human nature bestowed upon us at birth versus the idea that culture and our nurturing shape what we describe as our nature and common behaviors.

 

Kiel quotes Steven Pinker who wrote in his book The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature to express his ideas of nature and how that impacts our lives in business, “Thus, while conflict is a human universal, so is conflict resolution. Together with all their nasty and brutish motives,  all people display a host of kinder gentler ones.” Kiel is suggesting that we have a set of common human behaviors that can be interpreted as human nature, and he is positing those behaviors in a semi positive light.  He uses the passage in his book to explain that human nature is complex and that modern action and behavior cannot simply be explained away as human nature, especially when we have contradicting behaviors that we all share and display.

 

The idea behind Return on Character is that companies that are very forward in thinking in terms of their moral activity within society; the positive treatment of their employees, and the integrity of their leadership, perform better than companies that do not have the same positive values.  For a long time the business world has been regarded as cutthroat and we have valued individuals who can boast about their success even at the expense of the environment, the health of others, and the true wellbeing of the companies they lead.  By accepting that human nature does not simply boil down to conflict and competition, we can see that business and human interactions within a business space can go beyond the typical vision which has produced a bellicose view of the work world. Just as it can be human nature to compete and fight, we can build compassion and assistance. Kiel argues throughout his book that those who integrate better moral goals as part of their company do better because it helps the company foster better relationships internally and externally.

Character

Fred Kiel’s book Return on Character focuses on the importance of strong moral character traits in the leaders of today. Kiel’s book is about business, but many of the ideas he expresses go well beyond business and can manifest in our every day life.  The central idea to Kiel’s book is that those who are truly successful in life are individuals with high moral character. He continues with a business focus to say that those companies who are the most successful and provide the most value to their customers, employees, communities, and societies are lead by truly virtuous leaders with strong moral characters.

In looking at character and what it means to have a strong character Kiel quotes E. O. Wilson from his book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge:

“True character rises from a deeper well than religion.  It is the internalization of the moral principles of a society, augmented by those tenets personally chosen by the individual, strong enough to endure through trials of solitude and diversity.  The principles are fitted together into what we call … the integrated self, wherein personal decisions feel good and true.  Character is in turn the enduring source of virtue.  It stands by itself and excites admiration in others.  It is not obedience to authority, and while it is often consistent with and reinforced by religious belief, it is not piety.”

Kiel explains this quote by examining the way that an individual with high character is able to recognize the behaviors expected and accepted as morally correct in a society. The quote also shows that the individual has a choice to accept these behaviors, and then choose how to incorporate those behaviors into their life.  Kiel shows that those with the strongest moral character are able to do this in a way that will best amplify those positive traits beyond what is simply expected.

I like this quote because it shows the dynamic nature of morals and character, and it reflects on the ways in which we can use self awareness and reflection to boost our character. Through our power of reason we are able to recognize the behaviors and characteristics we find to be helpful or harmful to ourselves, those around us, or those in society who are affected by our decisions. Through reason, we are able to consider our actions and reactions, and develop a practice that allows us to move toward developing a better character.

50-50?

One of the ideas Bob Berg establishes in his business book The Go Giver is the idea that we have to abandon the long-held belief that compromise and progress are built through 50-50 splits in ideas, needs, plans, and desires. In his story, the main character’s mentor tells him, “Forget about fifty-fifty, son.  Fifty-fifty’s a losing proposition. The only winning proposition is one hundred percent. Make your win about the other person, go after what he wants.  Forget win-win—focus on the other person’s win.” Berg explains that this mindset, focusing on the other and not fighting to both agree on as much as possible, is what drives progress in business and helps people build networks of support.

 

Berg’s message is that fifty-fifty does not work because no one truly gets what they want, and no one get’s a complete package that really works.  When you approach the situation as Berg suggests with a focus on the other person, you are supporting them and genuinely doing your best to help them. The reason we should focus on the other is because they will recognize the assistance or service we provided them, and they will be more likely to help us in the future by returning for business, providing us with more contacts, or by supporting us in other situations. Relationships never stop being important in any context of life, including business, and approaching interactions with a mindset that is best suited to build relationships will help us all become successful and get what we want.

 

Being able to take Berg’s message and apply it to relationships and areas outside of life is what makes his point of view so powerful. Considering personal relationships, Berg’s idea fits in will with ideas about respect and trust.  If you only seem to approach others when you need things from them, and when you have your own interests in mind, others will notice.  It is hard to be completely genuine and focus more on what we can do for those around us, but doing so will lead to greater satisfaction, and greater friendships that will provide more for us in the long run.

Why We Work

According to Bob Berg in his book The Go Giver there are three basic reasons that we work. In his story laid out in The Go Giver he introduces us to the three reasons by having his protagonist speak to one of his mentors about success, motivation, and drive.  Prindar, the mentor of the story guiding our protagonist Joe, explains his idea behind the three terms, survive, save, and serve. “They are the three universal reasons for working. Survive—to meet your basic living needs. Save—to go beyond your basic needs and expand your life. And serve—to make a contribution to the world around you.”

 

I find this quote to be interesting because it hits our most basic motivation or need to work. It also helps us see exactly why we are working and gives us a chance to truly consider why we are striving as hard as we are, and what we are driving toward.  If we have an idea of success that does not line up with one of the three basic reasons for working, then we may not be enjoying what we are doing, and we may not be bringing our best self to what we are doing.

 

One of the first thoughts I had was about survival.  If we are working to survive then we should ask ourselves just how much of what we have and think of as necessities we could do without.  Perhaps we are working hard and pushing ourselves and feeling as though we are just getting by, but we are living with far more things and luxuries than what we truly need just to survive.  In this sense a minimalist approach to life may help us enjoy what we do and reduce how much we need to work to maintain what we need to survive, all the while boosting happiness. The Minimalist Podcast produced by Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus focuses on this idea and discusses ways in which we can simplify and better enjoy our lives when we can abandon our focus on material possessions and wealth. I think that their message lines up well with Berg’s ideas about surviving, saving, and serving, and through their life journey the two minimalists are able to explain ways in which serving becomes more valuable than the items which clutter our homes.

 

On the other hand, perhaps when we look at our reasons to work and consider a basic level of survival, we can take a more empathetic view of those around us and those who are in poverty.  When we look at the jobs people do and understand that in many situations they are doing any work possible for survival, then we can approach them and adjust our attitudes to help them in the work they do. This is a big shift for many people, and requires a level of self-awareness that is not easy to attain.  Berg’s philosophy helps us appreciate those who do work that we would abhor as opposed to antagonize them or looking donw on them for the work they do. Ultimately they are as human as we are, and by entering into the jobs they do, they are making sacrifices and making the decisions to help them survive.

 

Berg’s quote also brings up ideas about success and living a lifestyle that one desires.  Perhaps what we are working towards is something larger than what we currently have and a lifestyle that is more comfortable and entertaining. Perhaps we are driving toward a lifestyle where the work we do greatly matters and drives us to make a greater change in the world.  By acknowledging the reason we work, we can better align ourselves with who and what we do. We can also evaluate our desires to make sure that we are moving in a direction that ties in our desires and true selves.  This mindset is crucial if we are to begin to understand what exactly we should desire or expect in our lifestyle. Ultimately, viewing life and our work from the perspective of survive, save, and serve helps us build more self awareness and alignment into our lives and our daily activities.

Value & Worth

One of the business books I read in the last year was Bob Berg’s book The Go Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea. The powerful business idea that Berg lays out in his book is summed up in the following quote, “Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.” This quote is told to the story’s protagonist, a young business man named Joe, early on by a successful colleague of his. Joe was struggling to reach his quarterly goals, even though he felt as though he was working harder than he ever had, and his senior colleague was giving him advice about how to become more successful. This simple idea, and lessons from a new mentor, help push Joe in a new direction thanks to a new way of thinking about life, relationships, and business.

I enjoyed Berg’s writing because the lessons he explains in his short book about business can truly be expanded to other areas of ones life. Berg’s quote above shows that in business when you focus on providing a great value to others you increase the overall worth of yourself and the products you offer for those you serve.  He explains in his book that you are allowed to ask for payment or reward, which can be quite significant, but he explains that when the value you provide is greater than the payment you receive, you become indispensable.  Berg in his quote is shifting the idea of setting out to directly build your own self worth and reach success. He shows that one truly becomes successful by thinking of others and looking for ways to provide greater value for those with whom one interacts.  As we build the value we provide to others, we are able to ask for more in payment, and the more we serve and the greater the value we create for all, the more we can ask for in return.

This can play out well in relationship because of the shift of focus from, “What can I get out of this?” to “What can I put into this?”. When we focus on a relationship the way many think that businesses focus on customers, we would try to minimize the relationship and our input into the relationship to maximize our effort and efficiency.  We would measure ourselves relative to others in a game of mental accounting to make sure we were both playing fair in the effort and sacrifice made for our relationship.  But when we think of ourselves in a relationship the way that Berg thinks of a successful business, we are able to change our view and think of how we can put more into the relationship and what more we can do for the other person. We stop our game of mental accounting and in any given situation we think of the other before ourselves. This does not mean that we give up all of our desires to simply give all control to the other person, but it means that we put their happiness as a focus beyond our own, knowing that they will make a grater effort to help us and participate in things we enjoy as well.

What We Set Out to Find

In his book The Go Giver Bob Berg tells a story that relates back to positive ideas about business and the sales side of business.  It is often hard to picture positive things coming from a work and business environment, especially when companies and executives are portrayed as greedy and selfish.  In his book, Berg lays out a better platform for looking at and understanding business contexts. He talks about the importance of developing relationships of trust within our professional lives, and acting with integrity as a genuinely nice person to others.  His cornerstone idea rests with treating other people well, and providing more in value than you receive in payment. In other words, Berg is focused on giving more than asking and taking.  Hi book explores how the idea of giving can lead one to become very successful, especially at points where we need to rely on others for assistance.

 

Throughout his book he dives into multiple themes and ideas, and one idea that resonated with me was his thoughts on perspective.  Berg writes, “See the world as a dog-eat-dog place and you’ll always find a bigger dog looking at you as if you’re his next meal.  Go looking for the best in people, and you’ll be amazed at how much talent, ingenuity, empathy and good you will find.” What Berg is identifying her is the importance of what we are focusing on and trying to perceive.  Our perspective can be limited to only the negative aspects of any place that we are at, which will only lead to the continued flood of negative thoughts and perceptions. Berg continues, “Ultimately, the world treats you more or less the way you expect to be treated.” He is showing us how confirmation bias can affect our workplace, and how disastrous it can be if we are not aware of the thoughts that we build.

 

What Berg explains in his two quotes is the idea of perspective and expectations shaping our experiences.  Our presumptions and prejudices will change the way we interact with others, which will be noticeable to them, and in the end our attitude will shape the way we are treated by those with whom we interact.  A negative mindset will prevent us from connecting with those around us or in our community and will lead to others having negative thoughts about us. In his book, Berg explains that a positive perspective can help us become successful because it changes the expectations we have about our work, and allows us to reach for new possibilities.