Choosing Something Better

Former Office Depot CEO Bruce Nelson circa 2004.

We get used to behavior.
We get used to patterns.

If things are going well, we expect the good times to continue. We get shocked when something goes wrong.

Consequently, if we are stuck in a negative pattern we get used to the negativity. We’re not shocked when it continues.

That’s dangerous.

We shouldn’t get used to bad things. We shouldn’t become immune to dysfunction.

But I’m afraid we do.

And when we do standards slip and we run the risk of normalizing behavior and performance that we should never accept.

Many years ago, I remember attending a Delray Chamber breakfast where the keynote speaker was then Office Depot CEO Bruce Nelson.

Mr. Nelson was a passionate business leader and a good corporate citizen.
He said something during that long ago breakfast that stayed with me all these years.

“You stand for what you tolerate.”

I don’t remember the context, but the sentiment stuck with me.

It’s an interesting statement because it’s both a call to speak out and a chance to reflect on where we stand as individuals, as business leaders, as family members or as a community or nation.

I agree with the quote.

So partisanship aside, I don’t think any president or any elected leader—Democrat or Republican—should lie.

I think it’s risky to label the media as the enemy of the people and risky to dismiss science and expertise.

It’s not OK to have your own facts, regardless of what the actual evidence tells us.

That doesn’t mean we should blindly believe what we read—the press should be held accountable to tell us the truth and give us the facts.

It also doesn’t mean that we should blindly follow experts.

But I would hope that we adhere to common values and standards.

These days, it feels like we don’t. It feels very divided out there.

On a national level, we have stopped debating the great issues of our time. We talk past each other. And our “leaders” don’t deliver results.

I don’t think leadership divides. I think leadership tries to unite. I’m not seeing that happen on either side of the aisle.

On the local level, I see the some of the same dynamics, especially on social media.

It’s not just a lack of civility, it’s something worse; it’s contempt.

Contempt doesn’t solve problems. Contempt divides.  Contempt does not unite.

We have to find a better way to relate to one another.
And we have to set standards for performance.

Our representatives in all sectors of society have a responsibility to be good stewards. To leave our schools, cities, non-profits, businesses etc., better off than when they found them.
If we don’t believe we can do better, we won’t do better.

We stand for what we tolerate.