Monday, September 12, 2011

foundations

I am writing this on September 11 (Sunday). Of course we all know the significance of this date as it relates to the terrible events ten years prior. There were lots of memorial services and recollections by people as to what they were doing that day when they heard the news.

Many comments had to do with how our nation did not give in to the terrorists; that we came together and remained strong during this troubling time. Tributes were given, and deservedly so, to those who performed heroic acts that prevented the tragedy from being even worse. Many comments had a defiant nature about them - don't mess with America because we'll pay you back for your evil deeds.

That's all great and good but my question is, what exactly have we learned from this? Is our nation getting better or is it getting worse?

A few years ago our company had a couple of consultants come in, and they asked what goals and objectives we would like to set. One goal wound up being that we would achieve $X of revenue in three years. It was quite an ambitious goal because achieving it would mean our revenues would have to double in three years. That didn't seem to phase anyone; everyone was jumping up and down, all happy and excited, talking about how we were going to have $X in revenues and wasn't that wonderful, etc.

They talked like it had already been achieved. My question was, how were we going to get there? What was our plan?

That's the same way it is with all this talk I hear in defiance of the terrorists - stuff like, don't mess with the USA because we're still the greatest country in the world, mess with us and you'll be sorry, etc. Trash talk like what you hear in school about we'll see who wins in the parking lot.

My question is, we talk about it but what are we doing about it? Take a look around you - do you think things are that much better, if at all, than 10 years ago? Don't get me wrong - I love my country and I am thankful to be a citizen. But because I love my country, I have to also care about where we are headed and not fall prey to a bunch of empty talk that has nothing to back it up. Just like if you are at a sporting event and you start chanting, "USA, USA" as if somehow that is the magic formula to make the team win. Yes, it will get the adrenaline flowing but if the team has no plan, it's not going to turn things around.

I always like to compare the service I get at McDonalds versus the service I get at In-N-Out Burger. There is just no comparison. When I go to a McD, I expect the mediocre and that is usually what I get. When I go to an In-N-Out, I expect excellent service and that is usually what I get.

Why is that?

It's in the foundation. The employees at an In-N-Out are trained better and expected to perform to higher standards. They are better managed. They operate according to a plan and that plan has proven successful. McD's, on the other hand, seem like a hodgepodge of people stumbling over each other.

You can't just give a pep talk to a bunch of employees, telling them, "we're the best! We're the best!" without showing them HOW to be the best. Part of that is instilling the proper corporate culture - inculcating the proper foundation for how they are to conduct themselves and manage their operations. Without the foundation and the culture, they can't succeed.

That is how I view the United States. We are losing the foundation that our founding fathers fought so hard to establish. The culture in this country has in large part become one of "me first" and focusing on entitlements, rather than on how to work together to achieve greatness. It's all about me, and what's in it for me. It's like everyone is auditioning for American Idol.

The Ten Commandments and other lessons in ethics and morals are sorely lacking from our schools, as though somehow that is inappropriate and even evil. Parents are not giving their children the moral foundation that is needed, or even if they are, it is being subverted by peers at school who lack this foundation. Morals and ethics are certainly not coming from our teachers either, since they run the risk of losing their jobs if they dare broach the subject instead of focusing on artificially raising test scores.

Without this foundation, we are lost. The moral fiber and backbone of a country are all-important. That is what everything else is built upon. You can't just talk about doing something without having the right foundation in place.

Take a look around you and you will see what I mean. We can talk all we want about America being the greatest country in the world but we're headed in the wrong direction because it is all talk. Without that foundation - the moral fiber and backbone - getting rid of that "me first" attitude - it's not going to get any better.

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