June 17th, 2013 // 12:01 pm @ Oliver DeMille
As the party system has created gridlock in Washington, less is getting accomplished on Capitol Hill.
In a funny way, this has created a situation that is more like the American Founding era than anything we’ve experienced in over a century—the real place to get things done in government is at the local and state levels.
The bad news is that Washington continues to spend, borrow, inflate the currency by printing money, and over-regulate in nearly every facet of modern life.
Its growth is slowed by partisan conflicts, but it hasn’t started shrinking.
Not by a long shot.
Another piece of bad news is that the national parties and their teams are pushing their agenda even more vigorously at the local levels.
This means that the party controlling the White House will have a much larger budget and ability to promote national goals in each city, county and state.
The good news is that regular people can have more influence and make more of a difference at the local and even state level.
Most citizens have long felt they can’t really do much to improve Washington—the national government is just too big, too far removed, too immune to change.
But at the local level it’s a different story.
People who really want to get involved can make a major impact on local government.
The key is consistency.
Those who keep at it will eventually learn how to be effective, and as they involve their friends and colleagues they can become a real force for good.
This system, with a lot of citizen involvement at the local level, is what the American founding fathers envisioned.
In a strange way, it is now becoming more of a reality.
As David Brooks wrote in The New York Times, “The happiest people these days are those who leave Washington and get elected mayor or governor. The most frustrated people are people who were mayor and governor and get elected in the Senate. They end each day knowing they were busy. They’re just not sure they accomplished anything.”
Local government is the new power center, and regular people who want to make a real difference can now do so at levels not seen for over a century.
It’s unclear how long this new reality will last, but for now there is a window of power for concerned citizens.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.
June 17th, 2013 // 10:38 am @ Oliver DeMille
I frequently get asked something along the lines of, “Oliver, you talk a lot about freedom; but what, exactly, do you mean by the word ‘freedom?’ How do you define it?”
It’s a very good question. To answer it, I first want to define “liberty.” After all, the Declaration of Independence boldly affirms that among our inalienable rights are “…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Actually, the key word in this sentence is “inalienable,” and everyone should read the excellent article by Kyle Roberts on what this word really means.
Liberty and freedom are similar, but they are slightly distinct, and understanding them both is essential in a society that is losing its freedoms.
As for “liberty,” I define it as “the right to do whatever a person wants as long as it doesn’t violate the inalienable rights of anyone else.” Of course, in order to exercise liberty, a person needs to know what inalienable rights are—otherwise, he won’t know whether or not he is violating them.
Thus knowledge and wisdom are required to maintain one’s liberty, because a person who violates somebody else’s inalienable rights naturally forfeits his own liberty. The extent of this forfeiture is equivalent to the depth of the violation—when this is applied well, it is called justice.
License, as opposed to liberty, is defined as “the prerogative to do whatever a person wants or is able to do.” Note that this has often been used in history as an excuse to plunder, force or otherwise violate the rights of others. Thus license and tyranny are nearly always connected—the tyrant is tyrannical precisely because he takes license as he wills, and the person who pursues license eventually exerts tyranny of some kind.
Sometimes people pick one of the inalienable rights and use it to define “liberty,” such as: “Liberty is the right to do whatever a person wants as long as it doesn’t violate the property of another. Or … the life of another, etc. The problem with this type of definition is that though it is often accurate, it is also too limited. The violation of any inalienable right takes away one’s liberty.
Now that we have a definition of “liberty,” we can also define and compare the meaning of “freedom”:
Liberty: The right to do whatever a person wants as long as it doesn’t violate the inalienable rights of anyone else.
Freedom: A societal arrangement that guarantees the right of each person to do whatever he/she wants as long as it doesn’t violate the inalienable rights of anyone else.
“Liberty” comes from the Latin root liber though the French liberte, meaning “free will, freedom to do as one chooses … absence of restraint” (Online Etymology Dictionary). In contrast, the word “freedom” was rooted in the Old English freodom, which meant “state of free will; charter, emancipation, deliverance” (ibid). Thus liberty could exist with or also without government, but freedom was usually a widespread societal system that required some authority to maintain it.
In most eras of history, the goal is liberty, but it is almost never maintained without freedom. In other words, it is possible to have liberty without freedom, but in such cases it seldom lasts very long and it is usually only enjoyed by a limited few.
When freedom is present, however, liberty exists for all who don’t violate the inalienable rights of others.
What About Now?
This trip down memory lane has an important current application. A lot of people want liberty; in fact, nearly everyone desires liberty. But the only duty of liberty is to honor the inalienable rights of everyone else, and as a result liberty without freedom is fleeting.
In contrast, freedom requires many more duties, and therefore it musters much more from its people. It only succeeds when the large majority of people in a society voluntarily fulfill many duties that keep the whole civilization free.
To repeat: those who stand for freedom must honor the inalienable rights of all, and they must also take responsibility for standing up and helping ensure that society succeeds. No truly free government directs this free and voluntary behavior, but without it freedom decreases.
For example, one of the duties of those who support freedom is free enterprise—to take action that improves the society and makes it better. No government should penalize a person who does not do this (such penalties would reduce freedom), but overall freedom will decrease if a person has the potential to take great enterprises that improve the world, but doesn’t.
Thus freedom is very demanding. If people don’t voluntarily do good things, and great things, freedom declines. If they don’t exert their will and take risks to improve the world, freedom stagnates and decreases.
Freedom and Morality
Another way that people voluntarily increase freedom is by choosing morality. In societies where a lot of the people don’t choose a moral life, liberty may be maintained by some people but the freedom of all people eventually declines. When more people choose the path of virtuous living, freedom grows.
The same is true of charity and service. When more people choose it, freedom increases. There are a number of other ways people can voluntarily take actions that have a direct and positive impact on freedom. In the freest societies, a lot of the people choose to engage in many such behaviors.
When we pledge allegiance to the flag, we do so to promote “…liberty and justice for all.” This is the role of government—liberty and justice, or in other words the protection of inalienable rights and the providing of recompense if such rights are violated.
But while in free nations government is limited to this role, the people in a free society must do much more. If they all do their best, fully living up to their potential, freedom greatly increases.
In other words, the real question isn’t “What is freedom?” but rather “What is my role in freedom?”
The answer is different for each person, but the key is to not worry about how other people use their freedom. As long as they aren’t violating inalienable rights, they won’t hurt you. Your focus (and my focus, and each individual’s focus) should be, simply, “Am I living up to my full potential, my great life mission and purpose in this world?”
If your answer to this question is “yes,” you are a promoter of freedom and your efforts and projects will help increase freedom for everyone. If not, now is the time to get started…
June 14th, 2013 // 10:20 am @ Oliver DeMille
Peter Gray’s book Free to Learn is an excellent addition to the genre of books on restoring freedom in education.
Gray clearly states:
“Children are biologically predisposed to take charge of their own education. When they are provided with the freedom and means to pursue their own interests, in safe settings, they bloom and develop along diverse and unpredictable paths, and they acquire the skills and confidence required to meet life’s challenges. In such an environment, children ask for any help they may need from adults. There is no need for forced lessons, lectures, assignments, tests, grades, segregation by age into classrooms, or any of the other trappings of our standard, compulsory system of schooling. All of these, in fact, interfere with the children’s natural way of learning.”
So why did we create schools that so directly “interfere with the children’s natural way of learning”? Gray shows that in tribal cultures the focus of childhood was playing and learning knowledge, skills, and how to live self-sufficiently and honorably.
When the agrarian revolution increased the need for child labor on farms, the values of school turned to toil, competition and status. While Gray’s view of this is perhaps a bit idyllic, the reality is that modern schools are less concerned with student knowledge, skills, honor or abilities than with the universal goal of job training.
Certainly job training has an important place in advanced society, but Gray is focused on the education of children, and in fact the toll on children in our modern job-obsessed schools is very high. They are way more stressed than earlier generations of children and youth.
Why are we raising a generation of children and youth who are stressed, not secure? Gray’s answer, based on a great deal of research which he outlines in the book, is that we have turned learning into a chore, a task, a labor, rather than the natural result of curiosity, interest, passion to learn, and self-driven seeking of knowledge and skills. In short, we’ve taken too much play out of childhood and too much freedom out of learning.
The results are a major decline of American education in the last four decades. The solution is to put freedom back into education.
Interestingly, Gray suggests that in many of the educational studies of classrooms, schools, homes and teachers that have found a way to successfully overcome these problems and achieve much better educational results, one of the key ingredients is “free age-mixing.” Where students are allowed to freely mix with other students of various ages, without grade levels, the capacity of individuals to effectively self-educate is much higher. As for the impact on college and career success, students from free educational models excel.
This is a good book, and a must read for those who really care about education. I don’t agree with everything the author teaches, but I learned something important on almost every page.
Whether or not you read Free to Learn, all of us who have children or work in education need to do more to promote the importance of increased freedom in education. Gray is a particular fan of “unschooling,” a type of homeschooling and private schooling where parents and teachers set an example of great education, create an environment of excellent learning, and let the kids become self-learners. While this may not be the ideal learning style for every student, it is the best model for a lot of them–and for nearly every young person under age 12.
If you disagree with this conclusion, you simply must read the book. The research is impeccable. If you do agree, the book can help you get to work setting a better example for any students in your life.
February 15th, 2013 // 2:33 pm @ Oliver DeMille
by Oliver DeMille
Book Review of The Conscious Creator by Kris Krohn & Stephen Palmer
The Law of Attraction, Revisited
Every once in a while I read a book that really changes me—deeply, drastically, truly. I’ve never been the same since I read Les Miserables the first time, for example, and when I read The Making of America by W. Cleon Skousen my whole life shifted. The same happened when I read A World Split Apart by Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, and The Law by Bastiat. Of course, scripture is the best read because it has changes for you no matter how many times you re-read it. Some books just change your life.
Today I read another life-changing book. In fact, I read it through the evening and couldn’t put it down so I read through the night. I usually read fast, but in this case I took so many notes that I didn’t finish until after 3 a.m. The book is The Conscious Creator by Kris Krohn with Stephen Palmer.
This book is brilliant, and I don’t use that word lightly. This book is a revolution, because it really gets to the heart of what the whole modern “Manifesting Your Dreams” movement is all about. Manifesting works for some people, but not for others, and Krohn and Palmer show why.
When the book The Secret came out a few years ago, it was an international phenomenon. Millions of people were touched by it, and moved by its promise of what great things can happen to one’s life when we apply “The Law of Manifestation.” Within a year, many people around the world were using its concepts in their daily lives. But over time, a lot of them felt disappointed by the results. Many critics lamented that the reality just didn’t live up to the hype, that the promises of the book just weren’t as realistic as described.
Perhaps the problem was that many people didn’t quite understand what was really needed. “Manifesting” can mean different things to different people, after all.
This problem is remedied by The Conscious Creator. It outlines six laws of manifesting, not just one. The first law, which is basically the same as that listed in The Secret and so many other books on manifesting what you really want in life, doesn’t work if you don’t apply the other five laws!
Just the chapter on Law 4 alone is worth much more than the price of the book. Anyone who wants to really understand the laws of success should read this book. After I finished reading it, even though it was late, I pulled out my copy of The Secret and perused my notes. In fact, many of the six laws are there, I just didn’t quite catch them before. But with the six laws fresh in my mind from reading The Conscious Creator, suddenly The Secret was a whole new book.
I read every new book I can get my hands on about the topics that really interest me, and manifesting is a fascinating field—whether you buy into it or not. Having read dozens of books on the subject, I am impressed by how effectively The Conscious Creator teaches the principles of success. In my opinion, it is the best book in the entire manifesting genre, right up there with The Jackrabbit Factor.
It is written as a story, like The One Minute Manager or The Richest Man in Babylon, and the story is engaging and fun. This is a great book, and I couldn’t sleep until I wrote this recommendation to everyone. In short, this is truly a great book! Read it! It won’t disappoint. It’s a modern classic.
February 25th, 2012 // 8:37 am @ Oliver DeMille
A review of Orrin Woodward’s game-changing new book, Resolved: 13 Resolutions for LIFE
by Oliver DeMille
The freedom of any society is directly related to the quality of books that are widely read in that society. That said, there are some books everyone should read, like The Federalist Papers and Democracy in America.* And in a society like ours where we are desperate for more leaders at all levels, truly excellent books on leadership are vital to the future of freedom.
I’ve read Woodward’s books before, so when this one arrived in the mail I put away everything else and read it straight through. It kept me up most of the night, and it was so worth it!
This is a fabulous book on leadership. It outlines 13 resolutions every person should make in our modern world, and gives specific helps on how to turn them into habits. Indeed, this book could be titled The 13 Habits of Success and Happiness for Everyone. The stories and examples from great leaders of history and current events are moving and uplifting. I literally have never read a better book on leadership than this one.
Woodward’s book is on par with the great leadership works like:
- Good to Great
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- Acres of Diamonds
- A Message to Garcia
- Theory of Constraints
- The E-Myth
- Cashflow Quadrant
- Leadership and Self-Deception
- The Radical Leap
- One Minute Manager
- Rascal: Making a Difference by Becoming an Original Character
- Emotional Intelligence
It is truly a revolution in leadership books.
The 13 resolutions are exactly what we need leaders to adopt across our society. They are applicable to family and home leadership, community and business leadership, and societal and national leadership. They apply to the United States and other countries, and together they form a blueprint for renewing America and innovating a new and better Western Civilization.
The book is divided into three parts: private resolutions, public resolutions and leadership resolutions. Each of the 13 resolutions build upon each other, and together they create an effective and motivating system of becoming a better person and leader. They help the reader improve in career and in societal impact.
This focus on societal leadership is both timely and profound. In the 1950s we experienced a major “leader-shift” in society. Before World War II, most communities were led by professionals—doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, etc.—and before that by big landowners and even earlier tribal chiefs. The management revolution started by Edward Deming and popularized by Ray Kroc changed the focus of leading society from professionals to managers. This was captured in William Whyte’s great 1956 classic The Organization Man.
By the 1980s another major leader-shift occurred, this time from management (“do things right”) to leadership (“do the right things”). The great transitional classic of this shift was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. It outlined 7 habits that leaders needed in order to help their companies excel, and these habits became part of the mainstream language: for example, “Be Proactive,” “Think Win-Win,” and “Synergize.” Another great classic of this shift was Synergetics by Buckminster Fuller. The leadership revolution brought a whole new vision of what is means to be a leader.
Today we are witnessing a similar leader-shift, this time from leadership of organizations (“do the right things”) to leadership of society (“move society in the right direction”). Woodward’s Resolved is a seminal classic in this change. In fact, some of the early books in this change include Launching a Leadership Revolution by Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady, The 8th Habit by Stephen Covey, and Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman.
Woodward is more than an author; he has actually put these 13 resolutions to work in his business leadership. For this leadership, Orrin Woodward was named the 2011 International Association of Business’s Top Leader of the Year Award. His book Resolved outlines how we can all become such leaders.
In Resolved, Woodward shares a host of ideas and effective means of using family, business and societal leadership to impact the world. For example, he shows how Gibbon and Toynbee taught the laws of decline that are now attacking our culture and modern free nations.
He shows the three types of freedom and why they depend on each other—and how the loss of one is actually a loss of all. He helps leaders understand how freedom and character are inseparable and at the root of all societal progress and therefore leadership. His model of “Leadership Legacy” alone is worth the price of the book, and adds a whole new dimension to leadership literature.
Woodward adds several other new models to the leadership genre. He shows how five important laws from science, economics and history (Sturgeon’s Law, Bastiat’s “Law,” Gresham’s Law, the Law of Diminishing Returns, and the Law of Inertia) are combing in our current world, and what leaders need to understand and do about these five laws—individually and collectively.
These five laws are already part of our mainstream culture, but the analysis of how they are working together and what future leaders must do about it is new, deep and profound. No leader can afford not to understand this cutting-edge thinking.
On a stylistic note, Woodward consistently uses fascinating quotes, ideas, stories, historical examples and even one equation in ways that make the reader see things in a whole new way. For example, he puts an intriguing new twist on Chaos Theory, the Butterfly Effect, a poem by Yeats, Systems Theory, the writings of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, credit card usage, American Idol, the “TriLateral Leadership Ledger,” the IBM way, Aristotle on true friendship, and many other delightful references from every field of thought –all written in a highly understandable and enjoyable way.
After I read Resolved the first time, I placed it next to my work chair and each day I open it randomly and read the quotes or stories on whatever page opens. It is always uplifting. Here are a few topics I’ve studied in Resolved during such random reading:
- Why courage isn’t pragmatism
- Producers vs. Exploiters
- A commentary on Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Principle
- The common reasons 23 major civilizations in history declined, and how we can avoid their mistakes
- The combining of mind, heart and will
- Charles Garfield on Success through Visualization
- Will Smith’s work ethic
- Never whine, never complain, never make excuses—and what to do instead
- Woodward’s 10 principles of financial literacy (Wow! Every American should study these.)
- Five steps for effective conflict resolution—in family, business and beyond
- How to really build business systems that work
- Henry Hazlitt’s economics in one lesson—and how to really understand the economy
- The conflict between creativity and realism in national leadership
There is so much more. In one example, Woodward quotes G.K. Chesterton after he was asked to write an essay on “What’s Wrong with the World?” Chesterton wrote simply: “Dear Sirs, I am. Sincerely yours, G.K. Chesterton.” This, in summary, is what Resolved is all about. The rest of the book, all 13 resolutions, teaches us how to effectively become the leaders the world needs—and that we were born to be.
This book has articulated the leadership motto of the 21st Century: “It has been said that everyone wants to change the world but few feel the need to change themselves. Even a basic study of history, however, demonstrates that those who first focus upon self-improvement usually ending up doing the most good in the world.”
Gandhi taught the same sentiment when he said that we must be the change we wish to see in the world, and Woodward quotes Confucius in saying that those who want to improve the world must ultimately focus on bettering themselves.
Buddha is credited with saying that our purpose in life is to find our purpose in life, and then to give our whole heart and soul to accomplishing this purpose. Perhaps no generation more exemplified such leadership by example than the American founders, and Woodward discusses them and their words (especially Washington and Franklin) at length in showing us how to become the leaders we meant to be.
Woodward also shows examples of effective leadership from such greats as Sam Walton, John Wooden, Ludwig von Mises, and Roger Bannister, among others.
I could go on and on. Resolved really does, in my opinion, mark a leader-shift to a whole new level of leadership training for the new Century. If you are only going to get one book on leadership, this is the one. What a great book. Our whole society needs to study more about leadership, and apply what we learn.
*Links to book titles provided for your convenience in reviewing and purchasing referenced books. Any purchases on amazon initiated from these links result in amazon sharing a portion of their profits with TJEd. Thanks so much for your support!
He is the co-author of New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.