Monday, January 18, 2021

In honor and memory of Dr. King…. His “challenge” for our future!



 Since my earliest postings on this blog in 2009, now 200+ essays ago, I have shared a deep inspiration (in good times and bad) that is rooted in the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech that Dr. King gave in Stockholm in 1963.  While Dr. King’s writings and speeches are broadly inspiring, I continue to find myself coming back to this same document, almost as old as I am, and I continue to find fresh encouragement and inspiration that is very timely and relevant to the challenges we are facing today.


For those of you who have not read his entire speech, click this link (

and take a few minutes to savor the entire document.   


Today I want to focus on a specific paragraph of the speech and reflect on what it says to us today, a few days before the inauguration of President Biden, and Vice President Harris. 


I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.


Over the past few weeks and months, certainly culminating on the attack at the Capitol on January 6th, I have been discouraged by the  ““isness” of man’s present nature” that Dr. King refers to in his speech.  Are we incapable as a country and a society to reach to “the eternal “oughtness”,” thus being doomed to a “starlight midnight of racism”?  These questions and doubts have been persistent for me, and maybe some of you as well.  As I write this essay, in the dark quiet of the national holiday honoring Dr. King, I re-read this passage and I am actually energized by another sentence….. “I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events.”  While these words were written almost 60 years ago, they are “on point” for all of us today/this week as we end one chapter of our American story and begin another!


Dr. King’s challenge for us is that we aren’t victims of history, we aren’t “mere flotsam and jetsom in the river of life” …we are actually active parts of CREATING the future for all humanity! Our actions matter and if we choose to act in paths that will create a more just, a more truthful, and a more peaceful society then our world will have a more hopeful future!  The eternal “oughtness” that he refers to is his challenge for us and our actions to CREATE a better tomorrow for all!

I wish off of you a peaceful and hopeful week as we move into a new chapter for our country, and I for one am working to be hopeful about the path ahead.  Take a few minutes this week to read (or re-read) some of Dr. King’s works and find fresh inspiration and challenge for OUR work ahead!


Thursday, January 7, 2021

a message from a troubled moment in our history

 Early this morning, I sent the following "note" to my team at Bolthouse Farms.  Its rare that I post these types of communications on this blog, but at a very challenging and troubled moment in our country's history, I wanted to share these thoughts....

Early this morning, I got up with a fresh cup of coffee and reflected on the horrific images from our Capitol in Washington D.C.  I am angered, horrified, and deeply saddened by the acts of mob violence and domestic terrorism… and in the quiet of the morning I am highly motivated to speak out against those actions (and those inciting those actions) as an American and as a Bolthouse Farms person.


Since our founding in 1915, generations of Bolthouse Farms people have always had to work hard to do their/our honest work.  Everyday across our history we have had to work hard to overcome challenges, to take care of our land, take care of our facilities, take care of our people and to grow our carrots; to make all of our products, and to serve our customers and communities. We work hard everyday at Bolthouse Farms to Grow, Make & Serve.  This central idea of “working hard to grow, make, & serve” has always been at the heart of this company, a 105 year “young” idea that is never more true and relevant than today.  We don’t stand for lies, bullying, violence, and destruction, and we never will.


As an American, I am reminded that we must come together and work hard for a more just and productive nation.  Our communities face so many challenges, but through coming together and working hard together we can (and must) accomplish great things.  Very early this morning, after the congress reconvened and finished their constitutional work to confirm the results of our recent election, the Senate Chaplain closed the proceedings with the following prayer.  I found it encouraging and inspiring and I share it with that same spirit…


"Lord of our lives and sovereign of our beloved nation, we deplore the desecration of the United States Capitol building, the shedding of innocent blood, the loss of life, and the quagmire of dysfunction that threaten our democracy.
These tragedies have reminded us that words matter and that the power of life and death is in the tongue. We have been warned that eternal vigilance continues to be freedom's price.
Lord, you have helped us remember that we need to see in each other a common humanity that reflects your image.
You have strengthened our resolve to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies domestic as well as foreign.
Use us to bring healing and unity to our hurting and divided nation and world. Thank you for what you have blessed our lawmakers to accomplish in spite of threats to liberty.
Bless and keep us. Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to do your will and guide our feet on the path of peace. And God bless America. We pray in your sovereign name, amen."

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

“Leadership balance”… no small challenge in challenging times!



As I sit down and write my first essay for 2021, I am sharing an idea that I am facing personally…. the difficult and always changing “balancing act” of being a leader.  It’s interesting (and pretty wonderful) after 35+ years in business to still be learning new lessons, facing new challenges, and growing as a leader.  I took some time over the holidays to reflect on leading a wonderful organization in the face of Covid and the various business challenges we are facing today. A central theme in my self-assessment was how challenging it was to keep a sense of  “balance” in my leadership approach in 2020.  Lets take a few minutes and review a few thoughts on “Leadership balance” across situations/times (not just through the lens of 2020) and think about a few ideas that might be helpful broadly.


Steering/ Sailing


I will assume for now that all the readers of this essay have driven a car, sailed a boat, or ridden a bike in their lifetimes.  Imagine one of those moments and think about “steering” that car/boat/bike from one point to another.  The reality of any of those situations is that you CAN’T just point to your destination and be done with the task, you are ALWAYS ADJUSTING your direction, a little left or right, port or starboard to account for turns in the road, waves on the lake, wind direction and intensity, etc.  In order to reach one’s destination, you have to always adjust your steering… we are always adjusting our direction to be successful!  It's the same in leading an organization, we need to always adjust our approach, always “correct” a bit if we “over-steer” and always compensate for the changing environment to adjust our steering!






I am a person and a leader that always looks for the data/metrics/stats in many situations.  I hold onto the “science” of a situation, whether that relates to Covid vaccination results/ testing protocols, or when I recently bought new tires for our car and dove into the test review metrics, I usually start by digging into the “objective” data of any situation.  This past year has taught me new lessons on the need to “balance” that “objective” orientation with a renewed focus on the “subjective” side of things.  When I casually ask one of my team members on a private call/zoom “how they are doing,” I need to be REALLY READY to fully hear them and their responses.  At times over the past 10 months, I have heard responses to that question that have included family members passing, the inability to be with a sick child in the hospital, personal fear having just received a positive Covid test, and the list goes on…. the responses have been heartfelt, poignant and intense, often superseding any of the business challenges of the moment.  Leaders must find a balance between the objective business metrics of the moment and the subjective emotional state of the team, and me that balancing act has been really hard this past year.  I have no panacea or easy leadership “buzzword” that is easy to follow on this one, but just start by recognizing an old idea that you “manage project and lead people,” and as such, we as leaders need to come to that moment focusing on the well-being of our people first!




Finally I want to comment on the need/requirement of leaders in these challenging times to be strong with their intellect (IQ) AND their emotional intelligence (EQ) to be successful.  Once again it's a balance, but neither side can overwhelm the whole!  A successful leader needs to use all of his/her brainpower, and all of his/her “heartpower,” to handle the challenges we are facing today.  I have found it too easy to focus more on the IQ side, thus being out of “balance” with the EQ needs of the company and the team.  Work with a friend/coach /mentor to help you find the strength and the “balance” to bring both sides of “Intelligence” to bear in your work everyday!


As I said at the start, this has been a very challenging year on so many fronts, and a year full of learning and growth certainly for me.  I am working on this idea of “Leadership Balance,” and I hope you can find ways to bring this idea to life in your worlds as we dive into the hope/optimism & challenges of 2021!


Postscript: One reflection I wanted to share in this essay is how hard it is to be a “balanced leader” when you aren’t feeling very balanced as an individual.  2020 has been incredibly hard and stressful for the entire world, and I for one didn't FEEL very “balanced” as the year came to an end.  Work was stressful, family dynamics in the context of Covid were challenging, sleep was hard to find, and the list goes on….. all adding to the barriers of being a “balanced leader.” We need to both give ourselves the room to acknowledge those challenges and take actions to find ways to add (not subtract) personal balance in our lives.