Thursday, March 5, 2009

Athenians Would Laugh at America's Claim to Democracy

To Athenians, an essential feature of democracy was the direct and full sovereignty of the majority of citizens. Appointment to important offices, a two-party system, unelected bureaucracies, a private federal bank, lobbying, judicial life tenure, terms for elective office of more than one year—all these would have seemed clear and deadly enemies of a sustainable democracy.

The prospect that someone could make a life-long career of politics was and is contrary to the principles of democracy. The Athenian belief that political freedom and power was the right of every male citizen created an unparalleled level of stability in the Greek world. The Athenian democracy survived two occupations, constant wars, maintained peace between the poor and rich, and only one Athenian politician was ever assassinated.

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How Will You Measure Your Life?

I recently read this article by Clayton Christiansen out of Harvard entitled, “How will you measure your life?” It is what he tells his students on the final day of his class.

One of the items that he mentions sticks out to me. It reads as follows:

“One of the theories, . . . . . how to be sure we find happiness in our careers—is from Frederick Herzberg, who asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements. I tell the students about a vision of sorts I had while I was running the company I founded before becoming an academic. In my mind’s eye I saw one of my managers leave for work one morning with a relatively strong level of self-esteem. Then I pictured her driving home to her family 10 hours later, feeling unappreciated, frustrated, underutilized, and demeaned. I imagined how profoundly her lowered self-esteem affected the way she interacted with her children. The vision in my mind then fast-forwarded to another day, when she drove home with greater self-esteem—feeling that she had learned a lot, been recognized for achieving valuable things, and played a significant role in the success of some important initiatives. I then imagined how positively that affected her as a spouse and a parent. My conclusion: Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team. More and more [people think] that a career in business means buying, selling, and investing in companies. That’s unfortunate. Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people."

I’m sure you can see why it sticks out.