Emily, my architect and me

I live in more of a cottage than a house, not so much in size, but in experience.  Cozy.  Giving a feel of comfort, warmth and relaxation.  A place for easy reverie.

Reverie is the beautiful state of being pleasantly lost in one’s thoughts.  I find it blissful.

Small house, large garden.   Many flowers, many birds, lots of singing, hummingbirds definitely.  They like to fly from tree to tree and often to my roof.  They gorge on little summer plums from the plum trees.

Butterflies, lots of lavender, large, fat bees, deer, occasional raccoon and skunk, the baby skunk so cute, I wouldn’t have asked for skunk, but waddling little baby skunk are adorable.

Many tall pine and several redwood trees that tower above me, lots of other trees I don’t know the names of, lots and lots of blue sky, wide blue highways for fluffy white clouds to travel slowly in their graceful caravans.

Brick patio.  Cats chasing, playing, wrestling, running and jumping about playfully.   Wind chimes.  Music.

My house was built sometime around 1940.  Back in the day, before there was a Bay Bridge connecting us to the City, San Franciscans took the ferry across the Bay to summer homes in the hills.  Mine was built as a summer home.

Spiritually I feel very close to the architect.  He thought through light, space and lots of windows for fresh air.  There are many parts of the house where I can feel his love. 

I was stunned to find that on the Summer Solstice every year, happening two days from now, the glorious sun sets in the exact center of my living room window, lavishly creating a front row center seat for the most spectacular sunset of the year.  Filling my living room with a striking splendor of sunset colors.

I have a group of architects as clients and I was telling one of them how extraordinary this was.  He said, “The Mayans figured it out.  So did your architect.”

He also told me that what must have happened was that my architect spent time here when it was just a tree-filled hill, spending all day here, studying the changing light and designing the cottage so light would fall in the bedroom in the morning and travel around the hill to the patio for the day, ending the day in my living room sunset.  Filling the day with light.

He told me how much care, how much loving precision, it takes to create that.

I wish I could thank this amazing architect.  He designed a place of great reverie.  I imagine the first San Franciscans who took the ferry across the Bay and came here, and the great sense of release, relief, comfort and relaxation they had here.  How in the mornings they woke to sunlight peeking through their bedroom window.  How they enjoyed their sweet summer days on the patio and sat together in the living room around June 20th, just like I do now, absorbed in the annual glorious sunset spectacle.  How they left their cares behind in the City and came here to experience the freedom of light, garden, sky, birds and bees, the joy of reverie.

Emily Dickinson wrote a beautiful poem about reverie:

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And reverie.
The reverie alone will do,
If bees are few.

Here there is much lavender.  Many bees.  Much blissful reverie.

Thank you, Architect.  You created something sacred. You created something timeless.

Love,

Ingrid

What did we fight for? Why did we die? The difference between freedom and liberty

Old Pine Street Church in Philadelphia

Why was the Revolutionary War in 1776 inspired and started by a group of patriots in Boston known as the Sons of Liberty and not the Sons of Freedom?

Why does the Declaration of Independence say that we have we all have equal rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? Why not freedom instead of liberty?

Why does the Preamble say the explicit purpose of the US Constitution is to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our prosperity”, and not “the blessings of freedom”?

Did we die for liberty? Or did we die for freedom? What is the difference?

As often happens, good dictionaries, especially big heavy fat old ones, have answers to this and other philosophical questions. Thank God I have a large bookcase of them so I can delve into the meaning of life and emerge wiser.

Freedom is being able to be anything and do anything in the absence of all restraint.  It’s complete absence of control and restraint on who we are, our actions and, especially, regarding our consequences.

Liberty is the state of being free from SUPPRESSIVE or OPPRESSIVE or CRUEL or UNJUST or DISAGREEABLE or OVERLY FORCEFUL control or restrictions from government on our way of life, our actions or political views.

Liberty ASSUMES restraint is essential. It assumes our actions and our consequences matter.

Liberty is freedom from ARBITRARY restraint, which means freedom from unpredictable or unreasonable power used against you, freedom from restraint or actions by government that are unjust or happen without your agreement or are out of your control.

Liberty means control that you DO agree with, control that is predictable, reasonable, makes sense to you and that you do CONSENT to.

If we had total freedom in this country, people could murder, steal and do other horrific crimes with no restraint.

Liberty gives tremendous freedom, but not to do that.

When Navy sailors have “Shore Leave,” it’s called liberty, not freedom, because they have to come back to the ship and they better not get into (too much) trouble.  If they didn’t have to come back to the ship at all, you could call it freedom.

Understanding and consent are vital to liberty.  That’s why we elect our representatives and vote for laws.  Our vote is our consent, or lack of it.

So, liberty is a BALANCE of freedom and control.  It recognizes that some control is necessary, but makes a SHARP distinction between good control and suppressive control.

Liberty gives you tremendous freedoms and yet depends on control that helps you PROSPER and THRIVE, not control that suppresses you. It’s control that you AGREE with, laws that you agree with, government that you agree with, politicians who REPRESENT you.

Our vote tells the government what we consider to be good control and what suppressive controls and restrictions we do not consent to.

Liberty requires constant attention and protection to keep the balance of control and freedom in a harmony that enables all life to thrive.  It is easily lost.  You can have too much freedom.  You can have too much control.  It’s an ever-changing balance as civilizations rise.  And civilizations fall when this balance is overwhelmed.

This is where responsibility comes in.  Freedom is an absence of responsibility.  Liberty is a shouldering of responsibility. 

A study of history demonstrates that liberty is easily lost. 

Our history also paints in vivid color that liberty is so important to us, to human kind, we will fight … and die … for it. 

You can see that liberty depends on intelligence, education, and a good sense of right and wrong.  It relies on the ability to do the greatest good for the greatest number because real liberty belongs to all and it is only in this way that the precious balance between control and freedom can be maintained.

You can see it takes all of us to create it.

You can see liberty requires perceptive judgment and an ability to predict consequences.

We fought for liberty, not freedom. The Founding Patriots counted on future generations, on us, to have that essential intelligence, education and good moral sense of right and wrong required to keep it going. All of our Founding Patriots knew that if we lost intelligence, education or moral sense, we would lose our liberties.

That is WHY Noah Webster dedicated many years of his life after the ratification of the US Constitution in 1788 to creating the incredible and brilliant 1828 Dictionary of the American Language.  He believed that if we forgot or lost the true and complete definitions of words, we would lose our political and religious liberties.  There’s a great topic of discussion. 

And, yes, I owe a lot to him for helping me understand this distinction between liberty and freedom, words he so carefully and lovingly defined and distinguished.

The Revolutionary Era, when we won our liberty, happened during what is known as the Age of Enlightenment.  This was an age from the late 1600’s through the 1700’s marked by great new philosophical ideas, not just in politics, but in every facet of culture and economics.

It was also known as the Age of Reason.

Our Founding Patriots intently studied and were shaped by the great philosophers who came before them and created this age.  As a result, their fundamental belief was NOT that they were creating a government “by the people.”  Our Founding Patriots had studied the democracy of ancient Greece and decided that a government “by the people” resulted in uncontrollable passions and emotions that led to unreasonable wars, bloodshed and mob rule.  No, this was going to be different.

The Founding Patriots founded the United States not on the principle of government by individuals, but on the principle of government by ideas.

Leaders are interchangeable.  And we want them to change often.  Our Congressional Representatives are only elected for two year terms.

When you are united and governed by GREAT ideas, your leaders can change pretty easily.

This was to be government not by individuals, but by ideas, reason and power derived by consent. 

It was the Age of Reason.  We are to be governed by reason.  Not emotions.  Not passions.  Not opinions.  Not force nor weapons.  Not greed or desire.  Not personalities.  But by our ability to reason, to communicate, to collaborate and to come to agreement.

Our Founding Patriots believed in all this: humankind’s ability, our ability, to reason, to communicate, to collaborate, to come to agreement, and, most importantly, to do the right thing.

This was the real revolution in politics and government.

And the purpose of government was believed to be limited. How else could our freedoms be preserved? The purpose of our government is to secure and protect our fundamental human rights which we all have in equal measure, no one individual or group has more rights than any other.  And to keep control and freedom in a beautiful balance and harmony so that we, so that all life, can prosper and thrive.

The English philosopher who GREATLY inspired and influenced our Founding Patriots was a #1 bestseller for 100 years in these days, everyone was quoting him. This is the Englishman John Locke who wrote in the late 1600’s.

Locke wrote:

“The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.  For in all the states of created beings capable of law, where there is no law, there is no freedom.”

Our government was a brilliant experiment in a BRAND NEW control, one which ENLARGES freedom.

In memory and gratitude for all who have fought, and died, to secure our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, our freedoms, our right to spiritual, emotional and material prosperity … I stand straight and tall and salute you.  I thank each of you.  I will share your message with the world.

There’s a tremendous amount of philosophy in the foundation of our government. Philosophy intended to unite, philosophy about our basic goodness.

As John Locke wrote:

“To love our neighbor as ourselves is such a truth for regulating human society, that by that alone one might determine all the cases in social morality.”

May we continue strong on this path to enlightenment. To liberty.

With love,

Ingrid

I wonder what would happen if I just kept walking …

I go for walks every afternoon. Some days I wonder what would happen if I just kept walking. 

I live in a place that has woods, trails, crooked streets, stairways and paths that go on for miles and miles.  And in these glory days of Spring, I walk through an infinity of flowers, many growing wild and free.

I stop to smell their heavenly scents.

Lately I’ve been thinking about Robert Louis Stevenson. He’s one of my favorite writers. Not so much the books he wrote for his son, Kidnapped and Treasure Island. But his poetry, essays and other books, especially on travel, like his essay called, “Walking Tours.”

In the 1800s Walking Tours were very popular. People spent weeks and even months walking.  Can you imagine?  They walked all around Europe, exploring the nooks and crannies.  RLS’ descriptions of his walking tours are very enticing, not to mention humorous.

Walking is a whole different way to experience travel.

I compare it especially to today. We have machinery to get us where we want to go.  We measure success by how fast we get there.  Not by the scent of the roses along the way.

Hiking is also big here.   I don’t find there to be much difference between hiking and marching.

I do enjoy hiking and have done quite a bit of it.

But what I’m talking about here, what I’m enjoying a whole lot these days, is strolling, and ambling.  It’s a whole different experience.  In 1828 Noah Webster defined strolling as a wandering on foot; a walking idly and leisurely and ramble is to walk without restraint.  It’s a I wonder where this path goes … let’s take it and find out.

Boy, they sure knew a lot about walking back in the 1800’s!  I sure would have liked to amble with either RLS or Noah.

And I’m loving it these days.  It’s a going slow enough to drink in everything around me, discovering immense sources of pleasure in the small things you miss if you’re moving fast.

Like these roses in the picture, the impossibly delicate pink, the millions of brand new buds, hiding, waiting to burst into dazzling flower. They smell as good as they look.  It’s not something you want to rush though. I linger with them until I’m thoroughly intoxicated.

My neighbors march past me. They’re energetic.  Vigorous.  They’re not strolling.  They’re marching.  I enjoy their energy, the way they energetically tackle the hills in my neighborhood.  It’s all smiles and warm greetings.

But these afternoons are moments in my life where I enjoy the world going by and feel no need to keep up.  I work fast throughout the day.  And then I go slow.

Slows slow allows me to notice and drink in the world. The beauty of the sky. The beauty of the clouds. The intricate design of tree trunks. The deep purple petals of flowers never before seen. The scent of pine and jasmine.  The soulful eyes of squirrels stopping to check out the scene.  The songs of individual birds.

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a lot about the joys of walking, and of sitting by the fire at the end of the day, watching the flames, enjoying his “journey into thought”.

It’s truly this journey of feeling all my senses come alive, and the joy of thought, that refreshes my spirit every afternoon.  Each day completely different.  Discovery of new flowers, new views, new clouds, new breezes, new intoxicating scents.

I wonder what would happen if I just kept walking …

Love,

Ingrid

My Moonlight Friend

On my early morning run it was dark, the lights in Oakland and across the San Francisco Bay were twinkling, the light was gradually changing to dawn’s early light.

An unusually large full moon reflecting on the San Francisco Bay created magic. A woman walking her dog was standing at the top of the hill, looking with wonder at the moon.

I stopped and stood next to her and looked up and out across the Bay.

I said, “It’s an incredible time of day.”  She said she thought so too.

Then I told her what the return to light means to me.

She said, “It’s my favorite time of day.”

Then a moment of thoughtful silence.

She said, “I like to get completely away from people.  This is the only time I can do that. I’m tugged and pulled in so many different directions, there’s so much noise in the world and much of it isn’t happy.”

I said, “I totally know what you mean” and we talked about how beautiful it is to get back to the serenity of your own universe, to what’s true, important and beautiful, the beautiful universe where we are nourished by our hopes and dreams, where we can create a new reality.

The mood of the conversation was of complete beauty and serenity. Complete understanding.

At the end of this very brief conversation she looked a little blown away, she looked happy, radiant.

I said, “I hope the rest of your day is as beautiful as it is right now.”

She thanked me profusely, like I had given her something grand.  She also looked and sounded totally surprised.  It made me so happy.

As I continued my run I was pondering, puzzled, but why was she so surprised?

Possibly we don’t very often encounter real substance in our interactions? 

We are all capable of great substance. Of conversations that means something.  I do believe the world is hungry for real conversations, real friendships, real love.  It’s a beautiful moment when the sleeping giant within us wakes up.  When we make a simple yet deep human connection.  When we talk about things that are important and we see true understanding in the other person’s eyes.  When their eyes smile at us.

I run into her from time to time.  We greet each other like warm friends. I don’t know her name. It doesn’t matter.

She always says, “Where is our moon?” and we look in the sky until we find it.  She always calls it, “our moon.”  It makes me so happy that she does.  Our moon.  We share the moment, not saying much but rich with warmth, pleasure and understanding.

Birds sing a morning symphony as we go in separate directions, united by the magic of the moment.

Wishing you many moments of deep human connection and great beauty with the many wonderful people in this world who share the longings of your heart.  May you find fulfillment in their eyes and they in yours.

Love,

Ingrid

We are free people

It was a Saturday afternoon and I was visiting.  I asked my father, “What would you like to do now?”

He said, “We can do anything. We are free people.”

I heard him say these words many times.  We can do anything.  We are free people.

Always with a smile and it always made me laugh with happiness.

I think he appreciated his freedoms every day.

He was born when Lithuania was ruled by the Russian czar.  His father was forced to serve in the czar’s army. My father‘s first memory was when he was three years old, traveling home in a troika from Russia after one of his father’s military assignments.  This is a troika.

The czar ruled Lithuania with a crushing iron fist.

There was a brief breath of freedom in Lithuania after the Russian revolution set them free. Then the Nazis brutally invaded and occupied Lithuania, taking over every aspect of life.  Then the Soviets vanquished them and took control.

The Soviets despised freedom.  Books were banned.  The Lithuanian language in school, the national anthem, newspapers, public gatherings, religion – all banned.  Most importantly, freedom of thought and freedom of expression – banned.

Obedience was harshly enforced.  Disobedience swiftly and brutally punished.  Deportations of family and friends to Siberian concentration death camps were daily.

My father’s outspoken brother was taken to a Soviet jail cell and tortured for three months.

My father had strong nationalistic political opinions.  He loved Lithuania with all his heart.  When he heard the Soviets were coming for him next, he packed up my mother and their infant daughter and, with only a couple of small suitcases, he left everything behind and reluctantly fled the country he so loved.

From the moment he stepped foot on American soil on Ellis Island, he breathed deeply of the freedom here. He never took it for granted. He was filled with appreciation and enjoyment of America’s freedom.  He relished it so fully, that anyone around him couldn’t help but experience the joy of it.

And, whenever I asked him, “So what do you want to do now?” he would get a look of pleasure.  I knew what he was going to say.  We were free to decide in that moment.  We could do anything we wanted.  And we could breathe deep of the freedom to do it.

So, even the smallest of things became grand pleasures.  Eating a bagel on a Sunday morning.  Listening to a piece of classical music.  Walking and talking (we did a lot of that).  Riding our bikes on the boardwalk at the beach.  Planting flowers.  Ice skating on the lake.  Drinking home-made brandy (lethal) by the fire and watching the dancing flames.  Sitting on the porch on a summer evening listening to the crickets at night (a favorite).

Every moment filled with the fresh breath of freedom.

The last time I saw him, we were enjoying a rambling conversation when he looked out the window.  It was night and snow had just started to fall.  He said, “Come over here.  Let’s watch the snow.”  I sat close next to him with his arm around me, and we watched the miracle.  Each lovely snow flake gracefully descending from the sky.

It was enough to be together.  It was enough to be free.

I woke up this beautiful Spring Saturday morning to the sound of a bird symphony and the scent of jasmine through the window, and I thought, “What do I want to do today?”

And then I smiled.  I can do anything.  We are free people.

With love,

Ingrid

When your friend’s a genius

I recently posted a picture on Facebook and got a lot of comments about how beautiful the colors are.  I’m especially fond of the picture that was behind me which was painted by Diane Woods.  I’ve posted it here.
 
Diane is my friend. She’s also a genius.  An artist.  We’ve been friends for over 30 years.
 
It was July 4th a number of years ago. I had driven up to her house in Napa, California’s beautiful wine country.  I had commissioned Diane to paint a special painting for me.
 
I have a very intense life and asked her to paint something that would nourish and rejuvenate my spirit.  This painting was the result.
 
It was July 4th that we picked out the colors together. This picture of Diane is how excited she got when we found the right colors.  

It captures her happy exuberance for her art.  An exuberance expressed in each of her works.

While you can most certainly enjoy the beauty bursting forth from this painting, it has many secrets that only a trusted friend would know and remember.

For example, the side of the frame contains the hint of a red dress because, as Diane told me, “You may want to go out later.”  And, if I did, she knew I would certainly want to wear this particular red dress.

You see, I fell in love with this dress which was on exhibit at the San Francisco art museum Diane and I were visiting and I tried to talk Diane into breaking into the museum with me at night to steal it.

Diane didn’t think that was such a good idea, so she surprised me by painting this special dress into my painting as her way of giving it to me.

But there’s only a hint of it in the left-hand corner, a hint of red. You have to look closely to see it and only I know that it’s the red dress that I wanted.

This painting has many clues to the inside of my heart.

Life is good when your friend’s a genius.

Love,

Ingrid

PS  Diane does a great amount of commission work and can paint an expression of the beauty in your own heart.  She’s also worth following on FaceBook if you like sudden bursts of joy.

Louis

Sometimes we get really lucky and meet someone like Louis, someone whose communication transcends the ordinary and takes us to another world, inside and outside ourselves. Louis Alan Swartz has been a deep inspiration to me and one of my best friends. He passed away last week and my article this week is a tribute to him.

Louis wrote poetry. Poetry that transformed hard hearts into gentler ones, transformed lost hope into optimism, transformed extreme grief and loss into glorious new love.

This is the power of transcendent communication. It makes you see the world with new eyes. You lift your eyes from the keyboard and point them to the stars.

Louis looked past the “behavior” of humankind and into the heart of humankind. And that’s who he talked to.

I, and the very large and growing “Louis Fan Club,” are feeling deep grief and joy for our memories. Louis hated to see me cry. His last communication to me, as I was weeping over the pending loss of him, was, “I am alive!” And he is. In all the glorious poetry he has generously given to the world. Poetry he created with another dear friend of mine, the fine artist, Diane Woods. I will share a little bit of it with you.

“My purpose in life is to wake the sleeping spirit of man.

“You are constructed of magic.

“You are here to pervade joy.”

– Louis Alan Swartz

With love,

Ingrid

A quiet rebel’s guide to being unrealistic


Every person who ever told me to face reality never seemed very happy to me. I was told to face reality from the time I was little. So it started young. And it was from a good number of people.

I was a BIG day-dreamer and it happened when I told them dreams of what I was going to be, what I would do, the life I dreamed of living. This is when they’d look at me severe and grimly and say, “Dreams are nice, but you need to face reality.”  Then present me with an expectant look that plainly said, “It’s time to wipe that smile off your face, young lady.”

I only had one teacher, Miss Herman, who said, “You’re going to go places, Ingrid, don’t forget that, and don’t forget us.”  I will never forget her.

Actually, if you want to know the truth, it started really early.  Apparently, when I was a baby, I spent a lot of time laughing. My mother said even when she left me alone for a little bit in my crib, from the next room she could hear me laughing and laughing. When she came in, I was being very entertained by the light dancing on the ceiling as the trees outside swayed in the breeze and their leaves cast playful shadows of light. (Note:  I still find that endlessly entertaining.)

Anyway, she took me to the doctor because I was laughing so much, everything made me happy and I was always laughing at the least little thing. She was afraid I was mentally defective. The doctor examined me rather thoroughly and told my mother that I had no mental defects, she just had a really happy baby.

She couldn’t quite understand why I was so happy. It makes total sense to me. I had a really cool family and I was super happy to be alive.

I also really liked people. I found pretty much everyone interesting.  I loved talking to strangers.

So teachers, and even random people, started telling me to face reality pretty early. They made a point to let me know that the world was not as good a place as I seemed to think it was. Reality came to mean something pretty grim, slightly dangerous, a little or a lot unpleasant and definitely something you couldn’t do anything about.

And, most important, when it comes to you versus reality, reality always has the winning hand, you will always lose.

You can understand why I wasn’t crazy about the reality they kept telling me I had to face. It clearly meant giving up my dreams.  It actually meant I should stop dreaming altogether.

So, I learned to look very serious. I learned how to get the straight A’s in school that seemed to make everyone happy, grades that turned out to be meaningless because they were no measure of whether I was a good person or whether I could do anything meaningful, or contribute anything worthwhile to the world.

But I knew this was wrong and I couldn’t sell out my dreams.  I was a quiet rebel.  I didn’t announce my rebellion, I just acted on it. I won’t get into all I did to make school tolerable, suffice it to say, I had a really good time (clean fun) and laughed a lot when they weren’t looking.

I started our organization, Effective Training Solutions, when I was in my 20’s. They told me to face reality yet again, that I was too young to start my own company. Even my mother told me to go get “a real job” when I told her I was the CEO of a company of one.

And here I am, over 30 years later…living a dream.

Because that’s what it comes down to.

Dreams versus reality. It’s not you versus reality it’s your dreams versus reality.  And, in truth, it’s someone else’s reality they’re trying to get you to face, it’s never yours.

And that’s what this New Year is all about. There are WAY too many heavy-duty realities being enforced on all of us.

What does that do to our dreams?

If your answer is, that you dream even bigger and are making those dreams come true, Bravo!

If your answer is, that you’re waiting to either see how it all turns out or are waiting for it to change, it’s time to reclaim your precious dreams.  They are the most important part of your life. 

I spend 20% of my time observing reality exactly the way it is.  And 80% focused on how I want it to be and making it happen.

We have 12 people in our organization. We just had a series of major end-of-year meetings. We looked back over the last year and forward into our new year.

The reality looking back was grim.  We received an email at 3 PM one day in March telling us that, starting at midnight, we were not allowed to come back to the office. Every single client we had scheduled through 2020 suddenly canceled. We had no online training going, only in-person clients scheduled, so suddenly the rug was pulled out from under our business and our dreams completely.

My team and I had an immediate meeting and within two hours we had new dreams we were inspired by, a strategy and a plan.

Over the last nine months we have executed on it, with many pivot points along the way where we responded to continuously changing observations about what our clients really need.

In 2020 we pulled together, did the hard work, basically climbed a very high mountain, and were so busy climbing, we never looked down to see how far we’ve come.

In these meetings, we realized we had reached the top of a very high mountain and we all sat back to enjoy the beautiful view.

The wins from our clients have been so satisfying, so richly rewarding, so deeply moving, so profoundly wonderful, we were filled with gratitude.  All the new people that we’ve met and who have enriched our lives so greatly. And we are so happy for the great number of people that we have helped who now can go forward to communicate successfully to the world around them and create new realities.  People who are making a difference, people who are uplifting the world around them.

We look back on 2020 with pain and sorrow for the injury that was done to the dreams of so many.
And we look back with great joy for all the people we helped.

The world around us has been unrelentingly brutal. Surrounded by this harsh reality, we created our own world of goodness and brought many people into that world. 

And that’s what this new year is about.  

It’s not about facing reality. It’s not about waiting to see what’s going to happen. It’s not about waiting for everything to change.

It’s about creating a beautiful new reality that truly makes us … you, me, all of us … deeply satisfied and happy.

Facing reality isn’t going to get us there. Creating reality will.

So my wish for you is to be filled with the courage (because it takes real courage) to face your dreams and make them your new reality.

I will never tell you to face reality. I believe in your ability to CHANGE reality, to improve it, to make a better world, for you, for your family, for everyone you work with.

I believe in you. I believe in your dreams.

I’m all about making dreams come true.  That’s the best part of life. And helping people.

And being way too happy. And laughing way too much.

Wishing you a most beautiful new year.

Love,
Ingrid

Are we smart enough?

Constitution Room

I’ve always been someone who likes to see it for myself, to make up my own mind.  I made my mother laugh endlessly when I was little and she told me not to touch the stove because it was hot – my immediate reaction was to touch it myself to see what I thought about it.  She loved this about me and gave me inspired nicknames with great humor.

That’s why, when I read a biography, and I love good biographies, I also immerse myself into what’s called “source documents”, which are the letters and writings by the person I’m reading about.

Biographies tell you what other people think about this person, their interpretations of their thoughts, emotions, motives and actions.

On the other hand, a person’s letters tell you exactly what they were thinking.

Two biographers can interpret the same letter completely differently.  Exactly the way two people can hear what you’re saying and come out with totally different meanings of what you just said.

Have you ever noticed when you talk to two totally different people they hear you differently? Imagine you say something to someone who likes you, and then say the exact same thing to someone who doesn’t like you.  If each one of them wrote a book, you’d end up with two completely different books about you.

Wouldn’t you want someone to know exactly what you said if they were hearing about it years later?

I’ve always been interested in how this country created a political system on a foundation of freedom and rights.

Political systems are created by people, so this has been a study of people, their thoughts, philosophies and actions.

I’ve read numerous books and biographies, but what I love most is their letters.

The letters tell me what they were really thinking.

George Washington has 87 volumes of published correspondence.  (He spent most of the Revolutionary War writing letters.)

Thomas Jefferson wrote 20,000 letters.

James Madison wrote 12,000 letters and over 72,000 pages of his writings have been published.

John Adams wrote 1,160 letters to his wife alone, the most intimate conversation imaginable, pouring out his heart without restraint.

Benjamin Franklin corresponded with an astonishing range of men and women internationally, writing over 8,000 letters.

These are all available to read yourself.

You really get to know them reading their letters.

Biographers read these letters and put a story together.

I’m interested in some of the stories that are told, but what I really like is to read the letters themselves because they tell a much more complete and vivid story than any biography.  I create a fabulous movie in my head while reading – I can see them so clearly.  Their words are powerful, passionate, direct.  It’s like they’re talking to me.  I don’t need someone in between telling me what they said or what they meant – I get it straight from them.

Lately I’ve developed a passionate interest in the US Constitution.

It’s impossible to fully understand this document without also reading the 85 essays written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay called the Federalist Papers. The Constitution is the equivalent of an org chart and job description. The Federalist Papers, written immediately after the Constitutional Convention, explain what each part means, the philosophy, the reasoning, the why. These essays are a beautiful piece of writing about human rights, liberty, political philosophy – profound and timeless words about humankind.

What I’m into right now is making me laugh harder than any book I’ve read in ages. It really illuminates the wide difference between how history actually happened and what we were taught in school.

In school, this was no more than a paragraph in my history book:  Delegates from the 13 colonies got together in 1787 and created the US Constitution.

It sounds so simple. They met, they wrote it down, they went home. If you’re from Philadelphia like I am, you know they also went to City Tavern (still in operation, true to its history, totally fabulous) and put down some beers together.  And there you go, we have this thing called the US Constitution.

Let me just say this.  These were 55 people from completely different parts of the country who wanted completely different things.  Imagine for a moment, bringing 55 people you know together and asking them to all decide on something simple, like where to go for dinner.  You know very well that, even with a simple topic for discussion, 55 people will get entangled in an elaborate debate. I’ve seen groups with way fewer people take 20 minutes to decide what pizza topping to get.

These were 55 VERY OPINIONATED people.

So what I’m LOVING reading right now is James Madison‘s notes of what happened each day during the Constitutional Convention. Day by day for 4 months.  May into September, 1787.

Madison wrote down word for word the key points that were made, what many of the delegates actually said.  It’s a very, “Pinckney said this.  Then Randolph said this.  And Colonel Mason said this.  Wilson disagreed by saying this.  Morris wouldn’t agree unless we inserted these words.”

Madison doesn’t interpret their words – he’s faithful to what they actually said, the words they used.

The day’s notes end with, “And then we voted and this is how each of us voted.”

I’m understanding the US Constitution so much more deeply.

Reading these notes makes the whole process much more REAL. I have watched many groups make big decisions and there’s a tremendous amount of back-and-forth.

When it comes to the US Constitution, it’s the back-and-forth that’s fascinating.

For example, on day three of the Constitutional Convention, Thursday, May 31, 1787, they spent the ENTIRE day debating whether people were smart enough to govern themselves.

I thought that going into the Convention they were already all in agreement about this.  Not so!  This was a controversial issue. A MAJOR controversial issue. A number of delegates seriously doubted that the people themselves could be trusted to elect members of Congress.

Elbridge Gerry from Massachusetts, who “did not like the election by the people,” said, “The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy.”  WHAT????????

Gerry believed average people were “dupes of pretended patriots” and wanted people of “honor and character” to lead.  He did not have confidence that a sufficient number of average Americans possessed these qualities.

He was far from alone in this viewpoint.

And then there was Pierce Butler from South Carolina who very simply thought “election by the people was impractical.”

It was a HOT debate. Could we the people be trusted to govern ourselves? Were we smart enough?

The alternative would be to pick smart people, people smarter than us, or smarter than most of the people, who would basically tell everyone what to do.

In other words, the choice was to have a government that says:  “You’re not smart enough to know what to do, you’re going to make bad decisions, I know more than you do, so we will make the rules for you and tell you what to do.

Or:  Do we tell the government what we want and say to the government, “We’re smart and we know what we want.  You’re going to do what WE want you to do.  Not the other way around.”

I look at what’s happening today, and this question, 233 years later, is once again on the table.

Are we smart enough for self-government, to govern ourselves?  Or do we require others who are “smarter than us” to lead us, to lead our country?  Does the government tell us what to do? Or do we tell the government what to do?

I sat drinking my tea this morning, watching the sun rise, and imagined the beautiful room in Philadelphia I’ve visited many times (photo above), filled with 55 extremely smart, well-read, eloquent men, fiercely passionate men, men with intense convictions, impelled by a powerful sense of duty sufficient to get on their horses and ride for days to be there, to leave their families for four months, knowing they would create a national philosophy and system represented by a document that would create a nation and impact generations to come.

And here they were.  Day 3.  A hot summer day and a hot debate on whether we were smart enough to govern ourselves.  I pictured, almost like a movie, 10 hours of fierce debate on this one topic alone.

Have you ever passionately debated anything in a large group for 10 hours?

These men understood the art of debate, the art of real deliberation that is lost today. Their deliberations are beautiful.  They’re not angry.  They’re listening.  They’re carefully and eloquently examining the pro’s and con’s of each point of view.

So, how did it turn out?

James Madison considered self-government, trusting the people, as essential to free government and a free country. His argument to the other 54 delegates was, “The great fabric to be raised would be more stable and durable if it should rest on the solid foundation of the people themselves.”

Later, in Federalist Essay #49 explaining the rationale behind the US Constitution, Madison would write: “The people are the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that the constitutional charter, under which the several branches of government hold their power, is derived.”

I don’t know how many times he wrote or said this throughout his lifetime.  Too many to count.

Finally, at the end of this passionate day, they voted. Six states voted the people would elect their Congressional Representatives. Two states voted against and two states were divided. So 6 to 4 it passed.

Far from unanimous.  Almost a tie.  Close call.

But ultimately they decided.  We are smart enough to govern ourselves.

I’m glad they did.  I think so too.  I would have voted for it.  I think we are.

Much love,

Ingrid

Crisis and what I think will happen

Rocks into rainbows

It was a beautiful day in March, mid-afternoon, my assistant and I were in the office, heads together working on my schedule for the rest of the month. Out of the corner of my eye, as I glanced at my computer, I noticed an urgent email saying that starting at midnight we all had to work from home.

My staff and I mobilized quickly.  Within three hours we had a plan and a new life.

For over 30 years we have delivered training and coaching largely in person, only very occasionally and sporadically delivering online webinars.

What we did that week and in the last two months is build a brand new business entirely from scratch overnight. Online training and coaching.

In less than two months about 450 people have completed our training programs, way more than we ever reached in person given that amount of time.  We’ve added over 20 corporations newly to our list.  The success stories and the wins flooding my inbox completely blow me away.

But this blog isn’t about that.  It’s about our country and even the world.

The word crisis is older than our civilization and many others that came before us.

Following it’s trail here …. in the 1400’s crisis had come to mean a decisive point in the progress of a disease.  But it also meant vitally important or decisive state of things, point at which change must come, for better or worse.

It arrived in English from Latin which took it from the Greek word krisis which meant turning point in a disease, that change which indicates recovery or death. 

It literally meant judgment, the result of a trial, selection  and had come from the word krinein  which meant to separate, decide, judge.

The actual root of it all was a word mankind was using before they could even write or draw on cave walls.  This was the word krei which meant to discriminate, distinguish.

Distinguish means the ability to see the difference.  Often between the false and the true.

In short, crisis is that vitally important turning point where recovery happens.  Or doesn’t.

When it comes to the recovery of a society, it depends on our ability to distinguish the false from the true.  To judge.  To decide.  And make choices.

I’m watching the politics of the situation, and especially the politicians, very closely. On a local, state, country and international level.

Usually words, words and more words obscure their actions, many of which are hidden from our view.

Today their actions have no cover, you can see them clearly.

This creates a turning point.

I think our world will respond the way one of my neighbors did. This is what she chose. She put a little red bucket outside by the street with a note that said if you give her rocks, she will paint rainbows on them for you.

Neighbors have been pouring rocks in on her daily.  You see her results in the photo above.  Throughout the neighborhood you can see these rocks sitting prettily on mailboxes.

The politicians right now are not giving us choices.  How we deal with that is a choice.  A big one.

I believe we have been given rocks. What we do with them is our choice.

I believe in all of our ability to transform society’s current reality into something beautiful.

It’s something we have to do well as individuals. Only then can we come together as a group.

I believe we can.  I believe we will.

Sending you much love,

Ingrid