Disruption, Innovation, and Success from Egypt: A New Insight


This week at a talk, I came to understand for the first time that my novel The Oasis Within is about disruption, innovation, and success, both personal and organizational.

When it came to me in 2011 as a mental movie, suddenly appearing one morning from the first scene and proceeding throughout the entire story, I first thought of it as a coming of age story about a 13 year old boy who is crossing the desert in Egypt in 1934 with his wise old uncle. They talk about inner peace, the power that things have for good or ill, the immense power of the mind, the way to know our personal calling in life, the four elements that structure people’s personalities and how to identify which element leads in anyone’s life, the deepest secrets we have about success, the ways we can best prepare for any form of trouble, and what the boy’s uncle calls “The Gift of Uncertainty.”

Shortly after the book was published, I got a letter from across the world in which a businessman told me that it was his favorite leadership book ever. I had not thought of it as a leadership book at all, but after his note, I re-read it and came to see what he had seen. It is indeed a leadership book, but it’s a life book as well.

I was asked to speak at a conference on disruption and innovation, as one of the keynote speakers. And, as it turned out, the event was days after Hurricane Florence hit my home directly, taking out massive numbers of trees, blocking roads, and flooding highways. There was no power, or internet or cable, and only on and off cell service. I had to get to northern Minnesota by noon on Thursday, and in the aftermath of the massive storm on Sunday, it looked impossible. I had read during the storm, for about the fourth or fifth time, The Odyssey, the tale of Odysseus, the “storm tossed man.” Big O was praised for his adaptability and innovation, a resilient creativity that got him out of every tight spot. I used the wisdom of the ages with his example and got to my event. Five days of planning, six airplane reservations, a night in via, an unexpected rental car necessity to avoid T storms in the north, and I arrived at the destination, and at a new understanding of my own book.

And now, I can see years later that The Oasis Within is all about how to deal with disruption, create innovation, and attain success in any challenging circumstances.

I learn more about my own work from your emails, your notes, and talks I’m asked to give. If you haven’t see the book yet, I hope you will soon and that you will tell me what it is to you!

Where are Wisdom and Virtue?


We live in a surprisingly turbulent time. And because of that, I'm so very glad to be writing and publishing novels of positive philosophy that can help people across a broad sweep of ages navigate the roiling waters of the present day. We need wisdom and virtue now more than ever—two major components of the human adventure that far too often seem to have vanished in our culture. But the embers are alive and can be fanned back into flame. I hope these books can help.

I want to thank all the early readers who have written me about what they've called "a palpable sense of goodness" that comes through these stories. I had no idea that, after 19 nonfiction books, I'd be writing an epic tale set in Egypt in 1934 and 1935 that would be compared in various ways to such modern classics as The Little Prince, The Alchemist, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, and in the words of one reviewer, "The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Meet Aristotle!" In these simple stories, a 13 year old boy finds himself steeped in the wisdom of the ages and fighting the biggest battles of his life, while experiencing true friendship and the real promises of love for the first time. As we watch his challenges, we learn about our own, whatever our stage in life might be. I also appreciate all the early readers who have written such amazing testimonials for these books that can be found at their website. I hope the books can continue to make a difference in our time, to enhance both the wisdom and the virtue we have. In case you haven't seen them yet, you can learn more at this site, www.TheOasisWithin.com.

Fear. And Love.


What should we think about fear? Maybe Aristotle can guide us in the way he assessed the very different, but often related, emotion of anger. He believed the value of this powerful state of mind and heart could be revealed by such questions as: Toward what or whom? In what measure? For how long? And to what end? We should probably ask the same questions about any instance of fear. When there are real dangers, fear is rational. And it can be reasonable for us to allow it sometimes to call the shots, determining our thoughts and actions at a particular moment, or in a certain fraught situation, and thus guiding our behavior then and there. But this should not be a common occurrence. And there could be a better alternative.

A courageous person never lets fear unhinge him or her and always seeks to do the right thing, regardless of any dangers that might loom and threaten. Sometimes, that means listening to fear and accepting its guidance to pause, or stop, or retreat, or avoid. There are times when it's wise to be moved by fear. But in modern life, this emotion tends to intrude into our thoughts and feelings much more often than its help is needed. Practical wisdom, or prudence, demands that we respect a wide range of values in our actions, and those values encompass proper concerns for our own health and self preservation, as well as for those we love, and even to consider and protect a positive reputation among at least the wise in our communities. But fear is often a bully in its warnings that we may lose what we value, and is as subtle as any insidious force can be.

Fear has a thousand faces. It quite often presents itself as something other than what it is—as perhaps a common sense and reasonable desire for safety, or security, or comfort, or simply for what's known, as distinct from what might be clearly uncertain and unknown. It can make itself look like altruism, or moderation, or sheer rationality, and even when it's the polar opposite of these things.

I've let fear influence my choices far too often in life. But I never recognized it at the time. I was a master of self deception. And, whether I know you well or not, I can imagine that you are, too. We all have this unfortunate skill. We can rationalize almost anything. And the smarter we are, the more convincing we can be, not only to others, but to ourselves. We allow fear to mask itself as a proper concern for another person, or as the voice of reason, when it's not that at all. And we need to learn the form of discernment, a component of wisdom, that allows us to spot our emotions and motivations for what they are, rather than being moved around by what they appear to be. It's almost as if negative emotions can be illusionist shape-shifters and masters of disguise. Part of the Platonic program of stripping away illusions,and getting beyond appearances means unmasking them and refusing them illegitimate power.

Fear can present itself as any reasonable person's primary concern. After all, what's more important than survival, it asks us. Well, perhaps a lot. I've come to see fear as being, at best, a rare and secondary motivator along the course of an imperfect life. Yes, it can be helpful. And for that we should thank it. By I now refuse to allow it to call the shots as often as it would like. I'll feel its cousin anxiety arise within me, but nowadays I'll spot it, and question its validity in the moment or the situation, and dismiss it from my heart and mind when it's counterproductive, or in other ways uncalled for. I hope you will, too.

Salespeople are trained in some organizations to act on the fact that most people are much more motivated by a fear of loss than by a desire of gain. And I have a corresponding suggestion: We should not be among those fearful people, and thus, by our own independence, diminish their numbers. No one has ever attained excellence or greatness by following a path of fear. No one ever made his or her best contribution to the world from a place of fear.

It's often been said that we're motivated by two forces, love and fear. I recommend love. It's a vastly better guide, overall, than fear. It can give us most of the occasional, admittedly positive results of fear, when it's working properly, and yet without the negative constraints and deceptions. Love, understood properly and done right, should be our prime mover and most consulted guide.

It's a perspective worth pondering. And in the end, I think that love is a mark of true courage. That's why we hesitate ever to attribute this virtue to suicide bombers or any terrorist. Their fanaticism may mimic courage and produce a counterfeit that's convincing in the minds of their fellow fanatics, but that's because they fail to understand the nature of true courage, by their blindness to true love. And any of us, in lesser ways, can make the same mistake. Love puts fear in its proper place. And as the Gospel says, perfect love casts out fear. When love is perfected, this alternative motivator is not needed at all. It's a state of being for us all to hope for and to seek to attain.


A Most Remarkable Book Signing


I recently had the great joy of speaking to nearly 600 Indiana judges, hosted by their Chief Justice and the Indiana Supreme Court, pictured above. After a lively hour of philosophy, a lot of the honorables stood in line during their lunch hour, trading food for philosophy, to buy a copy of The Oasis Within and have me sign it. The conversations we had as a result were amazing.

Judges confront daily the most troubling problems of our society, and most often the people causing those problems. They face difficulty, tragedy, and the entire range of human emotions played out in their courts. It has to be emotionally exhausting. And the workload never lets up. They don't have a hard week followed by a light load. It's endless. And the wonderful irony is that, surrounded by the greatest threats to societal disorder, they play such a crucial role in maintaining the order that allows for a flourishing culture. And, as you can imagine, it's never an easy job. Then, in their spare time, as if they have any, they do volunteer work in their communities. I was inspired just being with them.

One man recalled having heard me speak 21 years ago. He said the meeting occurred at the lowest period of his career and life, and that the hour had been just the inspiration he had needed. And now here he was, all those years later, flourishing and loving his work.

Another remembered that same event, all those years ago, and thanked me for in that talk having gotten him excited about philosophy, which he has read now for over twenty years. He works with addicts and tries to impart to them the best wisdom for living. He snatched up a copy of the new book as perhaps just the thing he needed to share with those he counsels.

The judges' enthusiasm for the new book was great to see. The Oasis Within is about inner resilience, outer results, and so much of the wisdom we need in navigating a challenging and often gratifying world. I look forward to hearing from the judges as they begin to read, ponder, and use the ideas in the book. It's a rare book signing where you see so many new books go out the door with so many avid readers who are in a position to use its ideas for great good in their communities and in their lives.

If you have a chance, thank a judge for all that they do! I sure took the opportunity I had to do so.