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On Thought Leadership And Meaning

by David Brock on September 23rd, 2014

This will be a bit of an unusual post for me.  Usually, I ramble on about all sorts of things.  Today, it will be brief.  More importantly, the words won’t be mine.

One of my favorite speakers, authors, thought leaders is John Gardner.  He held many government positions including cabinet posts, was the founder of Common Cause.  He was born in 1912 and died in 2002.

I’ve been rereading a number of his speeches and books.  I just came across a speech I had never read.  It was an address to the graduating class of Sidwell Friends School in 1986.  There was a passage that struck me and I wanted to share it:

“Keep one small independent corner of your mind that calls nonsense by its right name, that holds to the things you know to be true, and that laughs at pretentiousness even when it is exciting and fashionable with your contemporaries.  Fools abound.  Try not to add to their number.  Don’t damage yourself in your own eyes.  Stay out of situations that diminish your sense of your own dignity.

If you’re lucky you will escape the root ailments of the young executive and professional culture—an overvaluing of intellect as against character, of getting there first as against growing in mind and spirit, of food for the ego as against food for the hunger of the heart.

You have to build meaning into your life and you build it through your commitments—whether to your religion, to your loved ones, to your life work, to your fellow humans, to your conception of an ethical order.”

This requires no editorial commentary, it stands on its own.

To read more of his work, PBS has a great microsite on him:  John Gardner

  1. Jim Berryhill permalink

    Inspiring, thanks for sharing.

    • Martin Schmalenbach permalink

      What Jim said!

      I was not familiar with this particular John Gardener until I read your blog – thanks Dave.

      • His stuff his really gets you to thinking about core issues. I know you’ll enjoy his books. My favorite (for some obvious reasons) is EXCELLENCE 😉

  2. Great post, Dave. Nothing like thinking about the meaning of things.

  3. David Olson permalink

    Hi David – I’m still reading and this one is still in my inbox which is saying something as at this moment there are less than ten emails there. We work and we work to achieve many, many laudable goals and yet sometimes it is more important to stop, take a breath and remember why we are here.

    Thank you !

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