I am hoping that you might allow the opportunity to begin today’s conversation here with a few short stories – real life stories that I experienced during the past several years of what I call my “Liberal Arts Life”.
They have helped me think and live in an age described several years ago by Thomas Friedman and his popular book as an age in which THE WORLD IS FLAT.
These three stories have also helped me add a twist to that book by realizing this age of the so-called flat world must also be seen as an age in which all of us on this planet recognize that success and prosperity and harmony in the flat world will depend in large measure on our seeing THE WORLD IS HUMAN.
Each of these stories reflects great opportunity to learn. They are now fond memories of my work and doing business with colleagues and with friends around the world.
Each story illustrates three puzzle pieces that I believe will be central and inescapable to the quality of this 21st century and our course of human existence and prosperity in this still emergent, often puzzling century, and each of these pieces will likely be the stuff of trying to make them fit together as part of the liberal arts life for many of you in the years and decades ahead: Global Business and Commerce; Relationships; and Dignity.
The first story comes from activities on the streets of global business and commerce – in this instance the streets of Bangalore.
I call this story “My Dinner with Vishwa” – Vishwa is an Indian fellow and business partner who was helping our US-based software firm meet our marketing requirements around the world from his office in Bangalore India.
Have you ever had a conversation that you can't shake out of your head?
I can't stop thinking about my dinner with Vishwa in Bangalore. And we last had dinner together several years ago.
It was during that dinner when I asked my friend and partner: "So who's going to win, Vishwa, China or India?"
Americans are pretty competitive people and often seem to size things up looking at the world in terms of winners and losers. After listening to Vishwa, it occurred that my question was limited in nature and off the mark from Vishwa’s perspective.
“Oh no, Mr. Tim, that is not the right question," Vishwa said. "Because it's not China or India. You see, it's China AND India."
Vishwa says the young, emerging middle-class street in places like Bangalore and Beijing and Zhuhai believes the bulk of financial and human capital (i.e. money and talent) is moving to this part of the world and away from America as the traditional center of power and influence. It's just a matter of time says Vishwa before the transition takes place.
So for my friend Vishwa the right question is simply:
“When will it be China AND India?"
Maybe I can't get this dinner conversation out of my head because my four kids just completed college or are about to complete college and are just beginning their journey in the Liberal Arts Life in the so-called Flat World.
Maybe this story still occupies by mind because of these simple facts:
-China has been busy building 800 new universities in the past decade.
- America will build five.
-In Minnesota (my home) just 25% of 9th graders will earn a college degree in the next decade.
-Compared to students worldwide, American kids rank 25th in math; 21st in science; 15th in reading.
-In 1975 America was #3 in the world in graduating college kids who held a science or engineering degree. In 2005 America was 20th.
-And since 2004 China AND India have been producing 10 times more of these brainy graduates than Americans have.
You are to be congratulated for your progress and your focus and commitment on education and learning here at UIC.
I was delighted and grateful to be asked to join this delegation and conference with UIC and the Minnesota Private Colleges this week
I have been excited to come here and learn because of the United International College focus on Whole Person Education and your preparing students for the Liberal Arts Life is fascinating.
It makes me wonder what I, as a business person, as an involved community participant, as a husband and as a father of four college aged kids, can learn from you; and beyond this, what my country, America, can learn from you.
I wish everyone could have a chance to visit your campus. It is marvelous.
I also wish everyone could have a dinner – many dinners – like the one I had with Vishwa.
I'll bet that would encourage all young people to study harder no matter where they live and perhaps make their parents and their public officials a lot smarter too.
My next short story touches on relationships and their importance and what it takes in an age when the world is flat. And human.
In 2003, after making my very first trip to China, I met a university academic in Minnesota who has since become a very good friend. Hong Yang has a unique understanding of both China and America.
And my question to Hong was simple when we first met: What is the key to good and long lasting relationships with people in distant locations?
Hong taught me that it begins with language. “Learn the language,” he said to me. “It is the best way to learn about people and their culture and it is the basis of strong, long-lasting relationships.”
So I made it a goal to learn several words and phrases on my trips here over the years.
Now, I am by no means fluent when it comes to speaking your language but I have worked on the important basic words over the years.
Like Ni hao (a typical greeting).
And Xie xie (thank you).
And Wo e le (I am hungry).
And You mei you gong bao ji ding (do you have or not have kung pao chicken…more on gong bao ji ding in a moment).
And you mei you Pi jiu (do you have beer or no beer)?
And Yo Xi shou jian mah (do you have a bathroom here)?
As I said, I have a long ways to go.
But I love to learn and have delighted in continuing to learn this week from the people I meet these days at UIC.
The last short story is a small story of dignity. My colleagues in China several years ago knew that I love gong bao zhe ding and would take me out to dinner at many different restaurants so I could try my favorite dish in a variety of places with a variety of recipes.
As is typical, they each had a western name: Priscilla, Frank, Lilly, for example.
And I always thought it would be neat for me to have a Chinese name.
Now I didn’t really ask my colleagues to figure out a name for me, but after months of working together and travelling to our offices in Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou and Beijing and consuming gong bao ji ding in each of these wonderful cities and learning a word here and a phrase there, my colleagues had a “eureka” moment and came up with a name for me: Ding Bao Rui because of my love for gong bao ji ding!
I love this name. And it was for me a great expression of acceptance and gesture of dignity when my colleagues came up with this. In a small way it made me feel as if I was with them even though I come from a culture and country a long way away.
All I can say is: Dignity is good. Very good. Tai hao le.--
“THE WORLD IS HUMAN”
In 2005, the book THE WORLD IS FLAT was written by author Thomas Freidman.
Since the time this best-selling book was published, many people in business, government, education have come to recognize and experience the world indeed as a smaller, more connected, more collaborative place in which important activities like work and studying can take place across the planet.
Thomas Friedman quotes the CEO of the Indian Information technology firm, InfoSys, as the inspiration for his book and its title.
“What happened over the last few years is that there was a massive investment in technology…when hundreds of millions of dollars were invested in putting broadband connectivity around the world…at the same time computers became cheaper and dispersed all over the world, and there was an explosion of software – email, search engines like Google and proprietary software that can chop up any piece of work and send on part to Boston, one part to Bangalore and one part to Beijing, making it easy for anyone to do remote development….
“They created a platform where intellectual work, intellectual capital, could be delivered from anywhere.
“It could be disaggregated, delivered, distributed, produced and put back together again – and this gave a whole new freedom to the way we do work.”
All of this is good, of course.
But it has seemed to me as my business and my work has taken me around the world in the last decade during a time when tools and technologies have continued to advance and accelerate our capacity for doing more globally that we may do well to remember at this moment that, while the world is flat, the world is human also.
By this I mean that, as much as we must know the “how” of our work, of our trades, of our communications, of our studies, we must not lose sight of the “why.”
Since becoming aware that the world is flat, the “how” of our work and studies today are becoming more naturally global.
Who here doesn’t email or Skype friends or family or associates across continents?
Or search the world-wide-web for information, writing, and analysis from a mobile device or laptop?
Yes, how we get around in this flat world age is easy – “friction-less” as they say in places like Silicon Valley in America.
But it seems to me we’re at a moment in the flat world when it is important to be aware that just on the other end of whatever flat world tool you can tap with your forefinger or press with your thumb or swipe with a flick of your wrist, right there on the other end, just a nano-second away, though perhaps thousands of miles apart in terms of physical space, is another human.
Someone who may speak differently than you and me. Someone who may look differently than you and me; who may cherish traditions unlike yours and mine. But someone who aspires just like you and me to make a difference in the world – to make a better place for themselves, their families, their communities and societies; someone whose answer to the “why” behind the effort and energy we put into work is a similar, shared value.
The world is human.
Reminding myself of this constantly helps place the emphasis in the flat, global world on two important considerations:
The first consideration is this: The importance of relationships being formed and then nurtured across a lifelong arc of learning and work;
And, the second consideration is this: A belief in the dignity of each human person and the belief that each one of us here, and all who are beyond this room, is endowed with a spirit and life and unique gifts that flow from and flow toward something and Someone greater than us; and, that each of us is invited and gifted as a human person to finding and pursuing that which gives us, and is for us, life here in this life.
Yes the world is flat and most of us are getting better at how to live in this flat world.
My hope at this moment is for greater awareness that the world is indeed seen by you and me as human, and that we all share a common human understanding and aspiration of why we are here: to find and live life more fully.
To embrace the world is human is to embrace the liberal arts life and the whole person.
Yes, the world is flat. The world is embracing this idea forcefully.
The world is human. My hope is that we embrace this idea just as forcefully.--
LIVING THE LIBERAL ARTS LIFE
You might be wondering why is this business person from the state of Minnesota in the United States of America with you today. And you might be wondering who is this fellow? And how did he get here? After all, I am not a scholar, nor an administrator. And my formal classroom training ended more than three decades ago. I’m simply a peddler of software who began a career as a storyteller.
The short answer is, as it is for you, I am here because of the liberal arts. And I can look back and say that every step along my journey in business and as a husband and a father was informed enormously by my liberal arts college experience.
A few things that might help you know a little bit more about this one liberal arts college graduate:
· I married my college sweetheart.
· My wife and I are parents of four children, all of whom have been or are being trained in the liberal arts.
· My career began as a journalist and a writer.
· That led me into politics and government and into community service activities that I find of interest and importance.
· This led me to join the Minnesota Private Colleges organization. I have served
as a business board member with Minnesota Private Colleges for several years because I believe as a business person the long-term success of identifying, creating and delivering products and services to help people live better lives depends on well-educated, well-rounded, innovative, creative thinkers and doers. Those are the kind of people being trained by Minnesota Private Colleges today. These are people like you here at UIC – dedicated to forming and preparing the whole person.
· My work in government and politics and community service also led me into business as a marketing and a sales person with software and technology companies.
· I’ve also had the chance along the way in business to start up a few businesses. Some have worked and are still in business today. Others were learning experiences – learning of things that don’t go so well and learning of things that are important in every endeavor to be undertaken.
· I’ve done some things I never imagined I’d be doing but couldn’t imagine be able to do without the liberal arts training in my past, including involvement with an election campaign for a Minnesota governor.
· And starting up a global marketing organization in India.
· Launching a software product in China, Germany, and Great Britain.
· Writing my first book called LOVE, YOUR MOTHER.
· Giving a lecture in Zhuhai here this morning to a distinguished group of students, academics and scholars.
All of this has been possible because of the liberal arts life preparation – a way of life that is valuable for it teaches us to not only look and listen forward or backward but also to look and listen and think this way and that way.
But that’s been my experience. The story of one pilgrim, so to speak, who somehow without much planning or design is together with you today.
Like you, much of life has been about finding my way. But with a liberal arts background, I have learned that life’s journey and story is just as much been about letting life – and giving life the chance – to find me. And most important being aware of this and being ready to respond when life knocks on the door with an important and meaningful invitation.--
THE LIBERAL ARTS LIFE MATTERS
I would like to share with you one more thing today. I have one hero who I admire and look up to as I work in the business world today.
My hero is not someone you might expect. It is not Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, although he was clearly a genius. It is not Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft. Or Walt Disney who gave the world so much fun and entertainment. No, my hero is actually not even from business. But I am inspired by her because of a fundamental insight she held and believed and passed along to the ages that followed her time on this earth two thousand years ago. I believe her insight has been the single most important and influential insight I have learned in my life.
Her life story is one of suffering, pain, redemption and ultimately the fullness of life. Two thousand years ago her closest companion died at the hands of oppressors for the beliefs their community shared.
She wrote of her experiences from two thousand years ago in a brief story that was only recently discovered in the middle of the 20th century. One of the key passages in her story encourages us, these many generations removed from her time on earth, to “be in harmony.” And then she relayed this important instruction given to her from her Teacher: “Be vigilant and allow no one to mislead you by saying ‘Here it is or there it is…
“’For it is within you…’
Her words guide us today that it is within you and within me and each of us on this planet that our gift resides – that our invitation dwells deep inside of us to live the life we are called to live. She encourages each of us with these important words when it comes to living the life we are invited and called to live: “Seek, find, walk forth…to become fully human.”
Two thousand years ago, Mary Magdalene wrote these words: Seek. Find. Walk forth. To become fully human.
Two thousand years ago, Mary Magdalene wrote us a letter that the world only very recently opened up and began reading. And her message was simple and yet very powerful for me today as a husband, father, business person and community service participant. Indeed, the message of Mary Magdalene is the reason she is my hero. It is for this simple message: The World is Human.--
CONSIDERATIONS FOR LIVING THE LIBERAL ARTS LIFE
I am fascinated by the UIC focus on Whole Person Education and it seems to be to be very appropriate preparation for the age we live in today.
In researching UIC, I learned that you have coursework in one area that is very important to helping us be mindful that the world is human and can help us Seek. Find. Walk Forth to become fully human.
I am fascinated by your offering to students the unique and powerful opportunity to focus on emotional intelligence as part of the Whole Person curriculum.
From my own experience, which doesn’t come from formal academic training but instead has been learned from many long days spent in the school of hard knocks, your ability to understand and nurture emotional intelligence may very well account for most of your getting head in life and for becoming fully human.
Let me refer here to another American author: David Brooks. He recently wrote a book called THE SOCIAL ANIMAL that focuses on the importance of emotional intelligence. He writes:
“We are living in the middle of a revolution in consciousness. Over the past few years, geneticists, neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, anthropologists, and others have made great strides in understanding the building blocks of human flourishing. And a core of their work is that we are not primarily products of our conscious thinking. We are primarily products of thinking that happens below the level of awareness.
”…this inner realm is illuminated by science but it is not a dry, mechanistic place. If the outer mind (the one dominated by intellect) highlights the importance of reason and analysis, the unconscious mind highlights the importance of passions and perception. If the outer mind highlights the power of the individual, the inner mind highlights the power of relationships and the invisible bonds between people. If the outer mind hungers for status, money, applause, the inner mind hungers for harmony and connection.”
I did not know until reading David Brooks’ book this fascinating fact: The human mind can take in 11 million pieces of information at a time at any given moment. That is an incredible amount of information we confront as we live our lives. But “the most generous estimate,” Brooks writes, “is that people can be consciously aware of forty of these” pieces of information at any given moment.
David Brooks’ message to us is that most of our processing is done subconsciously beneath our level of awareness. And yet it is the place that has perhaps the most profound impact on becoming fully human. He writes:
“…people are still blind to the way unconscious affections and aversions shape daily life. We still have admissions committees that judge people by IQ measures and not by practical literacy. Modern society has created a giant apparatus for the cultivation of the hard skills, while failing to develop the moral and emotional faculties down below. Children are coached on how to jump through a thousand scholastic hoops. Yet by far the most important decisions they will make are about whom to marry and whom to befriend, what to love and what to despise, and how to control impulses. We are good at teaching technical skills, but when it comes to the most important things, like character, we have almost nothing to say.”
The World is Human and author David Brooks is telling us that we have almost nothing to say of substance about the age we live in.
This is why I am impressed and fascinated with the UIC emphasis on Whole Person Education and, in particular, your work illuminating emotional intelligence. UIC is clearly saying something positive and good about The World is Human. And my own experiences lead me to think you are developing and leading what will become a bright path toward helping people become more fully human. This is a truly awesome vision. And I am grateful for being here this week to have had the chance to learn from you about your approach and philosophy in living a fully human life.--
Let me begin to wrap up my remarks with a couple of observations and then I will leave with you at the very end, nothing that will constitute or comprise answers for you, but instead questions for you to consider.
Seven questions that have come from my own life and experiences and are the questions that, as I reflect on what it takes to try to live life as fully human as possible, are the important questions to ask as we seek and find and walk forth. And become more fully human.
Here’s an observation I’d like to share with you by returning back to the words of the Author Thomas Friedman.
“I have concluded that in a flat world, IQ – intelligence quotient – still matters, but CQ and PQ – curiosity quotient and passion quotient – matter even more. I live by the equation CQ+PQ is greater than IQ…give me a kid with a passion to learn and a curiosity to discover and I will take him or her over a less passionate kid with a high IQ every day of the week. Curious passionate kids are self-educators and self motivators. They will always be able to learn, especially on the flat-world platform, where you can both download and upload.”
“Encouraging young people to think horizontally and to connect the dots has to be a priority…because this is where and how so much innovation happens. But first you need dots to connect. And to me that means a liberal arts education. Liberal Arts are a very horizontal form of education…it is about making connections among history, art, politics and science…”
Friedman quotes Apple founder Steve Jobs talking about his success being due to the connecting of dots. According to Thomas Friedman, Steve Jobs said:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—you gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
One more observation to share with you – this is from my friend Mike Sheeran, who is a Jesuit priest and who was for many years the president of my college, Regis University, a liberal arts institution in Denver, Colorado, that is one of several Jesuit-run colleges and universities in the United States.
Father Mike Sheeran delivered his final address to students, and their parents and families during the 2012 commencement ceremony in Denver. He then retired after more than 20 years as president of the university. This is what my friend, the Roman Catholic Jesuit priest and lifelong educator, said to his students that day – something that hit close to home, reminding me that I am still a student, even though I am fifty-five years old and thirty-plus years removed from university life:
“Actually God has more confidence in you than you may have in yourself right now. It might help to remember that the Jesuits got into education 500 years ago. NOT so you’d learn how to study, but so you’d learn how to live. God made a good world, a world full of potential. But He didn’t take His world any farther than that. God decided to create you and me and depend on us to take the world the rest of the way. Just like the world, He made YOU full of potential. Now it’s your time to be a co-Creator as you take the good world and make the part of it you live in a better place, make it bloom to its potential. (And, of course, when you do that, the amazing thing is that YOU bloom to YOUR potential.)”
As I reflect on these words from authors and a priest and from a holy woman who lived two thousand years ago – words that help me focus on how to seek; to Find; to walk forth, and to become fully human – I find that answers are not what I need so much these days. Instead, I find it more important to be aware of the fact that it is the questions that can remind me that The World is Human and that I must remind myself to continuously ask these questions to better my chances to find my way – to become more fully human.
So, these are seven questions that have helped me focus on the human and emotional intelligence within and have helped me move beyond the intellectual facts and analytic data of the day:
What do I know? (Yes, this includes the conscious thoughts of my mind. But, also what do I know of the things in my heart?)
What have I received? (I am aware of the many gifts of life such as nourishment; experiences; relationships and the like…)
What do I see? (How grateful I am to be able to see with the gift of sight but what do I see in my imaginations and my dreams…)
What touches me? (Physically. Sensually. Emotionally.)
Who and what do I trust? (Trust is the basis of lasting relationships and speaks to us in words and actions of dignity.)
To whom and what am I committed? (Who are the people and what are the principles that I really believe in and stand for?)
What will I decide? (As our life becomes a book of choices, am I prepared to choose well?)
Though we might someday find ourselves asking these same questions, we will find different answers. Answers that guide us; answers that inform our experience as a Whole Person; answers that shape our many choices in life and will become over time the stuff of our own unique stories; stories that are hopefully full of life and fully human for each of us.
Now, if you may allow one final story to share with you today:
Our second-oldest child graduated college in spring 2012. A month later she was leaving for a year-long work assignment in the Dominican Republic at an orphanage. Madelon is her name, and she texted me just before graduation expressing her fear, uncertainty, doubt about her decision, wondering if she was choosing well. It turns out I was presented on the spot with an immediate invitation to deliver my very own personalized commencement to one of my college kids. This was an invitation that was never going to happen again with this person, my daughter.
Now keep in mind that I had zero time to prepare for Madelon a short commencement address. And, no, a long speech was not delivered instead. No, in fact as it turns out we were texting each other – Madelon from school and me from my office at work. And, so this might have been the first commencement address ever delivered via text message.
From dear old dad. To his oldest daughter.
I have to say…The crowd loved it.
She told me over and over how much she loved what I wrote in that text message to her. Here’s what the text message said:
"Well yah, Madelon, that's what graduation means. On to living life. Your big assignment is the same as everyone in the world: Go where you find life.
"Now it is not always easy to know where you can and will find life. Often it is confused with where there is no life.
"Often it is a great trick that gets in the way of finding life. Fear can be a good thing in proper context but it can also inhibit one's dreams.
"You...have learned these last four years how to learn and listen and discern what's in your heart.
"Take time and quiet to hear your soul.
"Your truth is within. Your purpose is within.
"Look for it there and not outside in what others may think or say or status or riches or recognitions or any of that.
"Just look and listen to the quiet within.
"Life will speak to you and you will know by the life you feel; the confidence you receive; the peace that will flow around your next step after college..."
Become Fully Human.
This is our invitation and what a marvelous invitation it is. To live our lives fully as The World Is Human.
Thank you for your invitation to be with you today at UIC. I am deeply appreciative of being with you and learning from you. It is gift and it is good. Very good.
Thank you!-- tim
United International College