MLK Day

Last week was an exceedingly productive one! Smart Office Energy Solutions hit a major milestone as we received our first checks/wire transfers from investors. Sure it is nice to have some money in the account but even more rewarding is what this signifies. At this incredibly early stage, investors really aren’t investing in a business plan or a product; they’re betting on me. All of our investors are people whom I respect and admire so their confidence in me feels great!

I tracked pretty well on my goals for last week, except that I did not make as much progress on our global business plan as I needed to and, once again, way way too many of my calories came from fat. On the brighter side, though, I hooked up with several friends, mentors, and former colleagues last week, which was wonderful.
The week ended on an outstanding note. My mother flew into town for some meetings with NASA. We then headed to Austin to spend the weekend with some friends of hers from grad school. I thought it would be fun and relaxing but my expectations were far, far exceeded.
For one thing, the house on Lake Travis was phenomenal–which was a good thing since the weather was pretty glum all weekend. Second, we ate very well all weekend, from Z Tejas Friday night to Oasis Sunday afternoon to great home cooking all the meals in between! Third, they had a Wii and a huge TV–enough said. Fourth, both Peyton Manning and Brett Favre won their playoff games decisively on that huge TV. Fifth, we had lots of fun playing cards, playing Scrabble, and just bumming around all weekend. Sixth, we went to visit Flat Creek Estate winery, which had a stellar muscat dessert wine, the Mistella.
Seventh, these friends are both psychology PhDs and they run a leadership development/executive coaching practice called The LDG. Naturally they were fascinated with my leadership development at IMD much as I was fascinated by their work with CEOs and boards of major corporations. We shared a great deal of common interest and the weekend was fraught with discussions and anecdotes about the only thing that really makes businesses succeed or fail: people. These two really know their stuff so it was no surprise that their phone was ringing off the hook all weekend with executives hoping to retain their services–very, very impressive.
Mom and I drove back to Houston last night very relaxed after having spent a great weekend with some wonderful people. Then Mom had an early flight this morning and it was back to focusing on my startup. The weekend left me with nearly boundless energy, though, and today already has been incredibly productive.
As today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I did take some time to read up on MLK and reflect on what his story means to me. There are many things to take from his story, but a few particularly resounded with me, in no particular order.
1. The power of oration: the man was simply phenomenal at not only writing/improvising his speeches, but at delivering them. It is amazing how powerful oration can be–for good or ill–and I wonder how the changing landscape of media and technology will affect it. Certainly an individual voice can reach many more ears much more swiftly than in the past. However, that voice will also have to compete with a much greater cacophony of competing voices. It will be interesting to see. One thing is for certain, though, the early 60’s were a grand time for oration, producing both MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech and JFK’s “To the Moon” speech–both of which still give me chills.
2. The power of non-violent resistance: whatever happened to non-violent resistance anyway? It seems that now everyone resists with terrorism or overt military action, neither of which seem to be all that effective in achieving desired end results. I’m not sure why non-violent resistance seems to be so effective–perhaps it’s because it forces everyone (not only those in opposition but also all the onlookers) to humanize the resisters, creating empathy. Violence does the opposite; according to George Kohlrieser, violence is only possible when human bonding has broken down. Therefore violent acts inherently objectify, rather than humanize, people and humans tend to reach agreements with other humans more than they reach agreements with objects.
3. You don’t have to be perfect to make a huge difference: MLK was far from perfect and he was totally upfront about that. He was a notorious adulterer (Again a striking resemblance to JFK!), which is particularly imperfect in light of his being a Baptist minister! The FBI tried to discredit him by spreading reports of his transgressions but, at the end of the day, people forgave him and got behind his mission. We live in a time in which it is increasingly impossible to hide any aspect of yourself–perfect or imperfect–and it takes far less than the FBI to dig up your dirty laundry. No human is perfect, though, and I think the realization that celebrities and role models are not perfect has the potential to humanize them. If they put up a perfect persona and then are inevitably found out, the public turns against them, “AHA! You made be feel inadequate because you were so perfect but you totally are NOT!” Evidence: Tiger Woods. If instead they are upfront about it, the public may not approve per se, but they at least can empathize with the imperfection.
I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect. I also unfairly project that on others too. I’ll never forget my PDI coach (IMD’s personal development program included a year-long interaction with a Jungian analyst, called PDI.) telling me how she felt that I put tremendous performance pressure on her. I’m sure I do it to employees and even friends and family too. I try to be cognizant of that and ease off a bit. MLK is a good example to remind me that, imperfect as I am, I still have the power to make a positive impact. We all do.

Published by Bryan Guido Hassin

These are the musings of a global cleantech entrepreneur. This blog began as a way to document my experience during the IMD MBA in Switzerland and now is the place where I publish eclectic thoughts on business, politics, fitness, entertainment, travel, wine, sports, and . . . whatever else is top of mind.

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