Towers of Glass, Feet of Clay: What Is the Quest?

I was going throughdubaipaster my travel photographs and saw this picture of a poster at the Dubai Airport advertising the world’s tallest building, which was under construction at the time. The Burj Dubai is very impressive and I was inspired to write more about the towers of glass.

I love beautiful, expansive and extraordinary things and am a patron of the arts. Architecture is particularly captivating because of its ability to inspire and uplift. My title is only an analogy and not meant in any way to be critical of any building.

My personal observation about many banks, hotels, and companies that own these towers is that the public areas are grand, beautiful and spacious, whereas the back of the house where the employees work tend to be relatively ordinary and in many cases dingy and unattractive.

Let’s continue the conversation about Towers Of Glass, Feet Of Clay — particularly our response to external circumstances, as the waves of impact wash over us.

Many people are being tested to the core and have a rare opportunity to re-evaluate what is real and what is an illusion. We have to decide, “What is important to us?” and “What we are willing to let go?” “Which relationships are here for the long haul?” and “Which ones are superficial?”

It is time to reflect so that the inside can be as beautiful and tall as the outside.

Nearly everyone will agree to this in concept, yet not everyone is willing to invest the time, energy and money that beautifying the inside requires. Don’t get me wrong.  I am not referring to a religion or any particular philosophy, but rather a journey that all leaders take in the process of leading. Those who know, know… as we share a common experience.

We call this common experience the Quest:

The essence of the Quest is where you leave your comfort zone, known reality, sense of security, and attachments and step into the unknown to discover your true nature, destiny, unique gifts, qualities, and virtues. It is only when you leave your comfort zone that you run into your limits.

During your journey to discover your true self, you encounter the limiting parts of yourself, weaknesses, limiting beliefs, blocks, self-suppression, unexpressed feelings, insecurities, jealousies, and doubts. In other words, you encounter your dark side. You also discover and encounter any opposition to your visions, goals, and dreams.

In the process of your journey, you overcome and master your dark side and gain attributes, qualities, and virtues and develop your overall character as a meaningful, worthwhile, contributing, conscious, compassionate, humble and honorable human being.

This is perhaps the most difficult part of the journey and is the point where most people quit, give up and throw in the towel! It is easy to look at what is good, what is beautiful and the aspects of ourselves that are great. On the other hand, looking at the ugly, nasty and self-interested parts of ourselves is not easy. And yet, honesty requires it. Why is this so hard? Because our egos are as fragile as a house of cards.

Should you continue, you become very clear who you are and what you stand for. Your vision, values, beliefs and most importantly — actions, are in total alignment with your spiritual-self.

Returning from your Quest, you then integrate all you have become and learned in order to be a contributing member of society.

The nature of your Quest is that it is a life-long journey with no specific destination. While there are milestones along the way, the real and meaningful result is WHO YOU BECOME IN THE PROCESS.

© Goldzone Foundation. All rights reserved.

Towers of Glass, Feet of Clay

royal_bank_building-smallI have been reflecting further about the “financial crisis,” and recalling a book I read in 1982 called Towers of Gold: Feet of Clay – the Canadian Banks, by Walter Stewart.

In a conversation about this with my colleagues I happened to say towers of glass, and perhaps 27 years later, Glass is more descriptive. In 1982, I was working in the oil and gas industry in Canada and this book was written about the Banking Industry, the mortgage crisis and the oil prices. These themes are again relevant in 2009.

In Towers of Gold, the title was based on the Royal Bank in Canada with a gold colored glass tower in Toronto. Gold had more relevance then as some of the money (not much even then) was actually backed by gold bars. Many eons ago, most of it was either made of gold/silver and later backed by it. Now most of our money is floating around electronically in bits and bytes, and the cash is made of plastic, paper and mostly cheaper metals. I have a special account (premier customer – which means more money deposited) with a major international bank, and the interest on this was very low and now has dropped to 0%.

I used to have judgements about people who keep their money in or under the mattress. Now I can laugh at myself because there is not much difference. Judgements are often like that, what goes around comes around. I wish I had some gold bars.

I feel this title reflects what is happening very accurately. Now there are even more towers of glass. There is competition between top cities about who can build the tallest tower, one about half a mile into the sky. Now most of these projects are compromised, and construction financing has been choked almost to death. Containers of steel and glass which were in such short supply (some orders 3 years ahead) were turned around from China and returned to their origin. Each one of these events has an impact on multiple people, industries, and countries. These really are the waves of impact. The waves move around the world faster than the earth spins.

These towers are built to be earthquake proof, tidal wave resistant, fire resistant and all these events are insured. This is where the foundations (the feet of clay) are being stretched beyond anything imaginable. And most will fall short in the test over time… I am refering to the financial foundations and also that of people, relationships, organizations, communities, and countries.

Like the banks, we all have glass towers that we build (what we show the world: the act, the ego, the stuff) and feet of clay (what we are at the core of our being: the real self, the essence, the ordinary humble person). Glass towers are fragile, and someone can always build a taller one.

I see all this as an opportunity to lead where it matters. When the waves of impact hit us, we cannot control the wave, only our response. By building personal foundations that are deep, strong, resilient and mostly invisible to everyone else, we can withstand the waves and even become better human beings. We can choose right action no matter what prevails.

Waves of Impact

underwater3

Nearly everyone is feeling the financial crisis, not all at once, but rather in waves.  These waves or fluctuations go in and out like the ocean. Each one brings more insight, more truth, more change, and with each contact, ever greater connections that impact our reality. The illusions and ideas that we took for granted are eroding.

We once thought ideas, like banks, are stable and real estate is a safe bet.  Ideas about the hedge funds, insurance companies, and finacial gurus, to name a few.  Ideas about government and capitalism and private business.  Ideas about retirement and security. All of these ideas are being challenged, exposed, and the bottom line, once so clear, is a hazy blur. No one seems to know exactly when and how the whole experience known as the financial crisis will end. As quickly as solutions appear, another wave appears, and the impact keeps growing.

More than ever it is time to lead, not follow.  Calling this a financial crisis does not do justice to what is really going on and how many areas of life this will impact.  Relationships are being torn apart, stress-related health issues are prevalent, mental illness is on the rise and lives are in transition.  There are more things than I can write about. Money or lack of money is not the core cause, and neither is it, by itself, the long term solution.

People and organizations will have to go through transformations to win. Getting by is not enough.  I believe this is an extra-ordinary opportunity to step out of the trance of mediocrity and into the ideals we desire. Cooperation, harmony, compassion and truth will have a greater audience than competition, greed, self-interest and illusions of reality designed to serve a few.  We can choose to evolve to our highest potential together and rise above the waves. Or, we can choose to do nothing, step into fear and denial and eventually drown in them.

Now is the perfect time to re-define who we are.  To internalize our self-worth as seperate from our net-worth. To find fulfillment in life and not just on paper (bank statements, share certificates, etc). Time to play the game no matter how challenging…play to win!