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Peace for Longer than the Holidays
December 10, 2013

Welcome to Business Leadership

Today it's snowing again in the northeast United States. For those of us who let it, this can be a time of quiet. Park the car. Put down the shovel. Put on proper boots and go for a walk. Now stop, look, and listen. Be where you are. Let go of needing to be somewhere else doing something else. Those of you in sunshine or in rain, follow in your imagination. Let go of the doing and be.

Now you may be ready to hear an important message. We may indeed be achieving peace on earth. Humans may be achieving peace on Earth. Some readers immediately popped out of reverie and have marshaled dozens of examples of why that cannot possible be true. I know, I did the same thing when I first encountered Steven Pinker's book The Better Angels of our Nature. Nothing wrong with a little skepticism. Leaders should question, and one of the questions should be, "What if he's right?"

In the preface, Pinker writes, “This book is about what may be the most important thing that has ever happened in human history. Believe it or not—and I know that most people do not—violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence. The decline, to be sure, has not been smooth; it has not brought violence down to zero; and it is not guaranteed to continue. But it is an unmistakable development, visible on scales from millennia to years, from the waging of wars to the spanking of children."

Pinker commendably does an excellent job of both substantiating his claim and doing so with an engaging writing style. While I highly recommend you make a gift of Pinker's book to yourself, the leadership question is, "If I accept Pinker's premise, what personal decisions will I make differently? How might this impact business decisions? What opportunities does this open?"

When we allow for a more peaceable world view, opportunities open. Having recently returned from two years in Pakistan, one of the frequently asked questions I get is "Weren't you scared?" Most Pakistanis, indeed most people in most places in the world simply want to have a decent job, a roof over their heads, family and friends. They want to be able to feed their kids and send them to a decent school. They take care of their parents. These are the people we choose for neighbors. How would the recognition of this simple truth change your business? Armed with data rather than perception, would you open an office or a plant in an inner city? Would you give peace a chance?

This holiday season when you wish "Peace on Earth" be joyful and attend to your own heart and mind. This is a wish that really can come true.

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