Tag Archives: Bang the Drum

Do You Get It?

It is more blessed to give than to receive. – Jesus of Nazareth

The holidays are here and it seems that we could not truly enjoy the celebrations, parties, and events of the season without the use of lists. For Thanksgiving we have a list for groceries, a list for the football schedule on television, a list of relatives to call, and a list of things to buy at the Black Friday sales early the next morning. For Christmas we have lists of gifts to give and to get, a list of people to send cards, a list of parades, events, parties, and get-togethers. We may even have lists of things to do before the end of the year and we will start the New Year with a list of resolutions.

All of these lists serve to keep us organized in an otherwise over-busy time of year. We wait all year for the holidays and before we know it they have come and gone again. We save, plan, budget, plot, scheme, and think about how to get the best gifts at the best prices for those we love, those we like, and those we are obligated to give gifts to because it is after all “the Season of Giving.”

We also hope and hint so that others might get us the gifts we most want. Being grown up makes it a little more difficult than when we were kids. Everyone asks kids what they want for Christmas. But as adults there are times we know what we want, know what it costs, and so we don’t put that on a list anyone will read. Maybe if we get enough gift cards we can get what we really want!

At this time of year it seems there are always complaints about consumerism and greed. Everyone is upset, at least for a few minutes, that the holidays have become so commercial. But then, once the line at the checkout starts to move again, we forget how irritated we were. The problem with commercialism and consumerism has to do with the motives and actions of other people, not with our own desire to make this the best Christmas ever, right?

The people who pepper spray other shoppers in order to get the flat screen TV for themselves, who stomp and trample others even as they are dying on the floor of heart attacks and strokes, those who scratch and claw to get in line, stay in line, and get the best deal – these are the people who reveal the dark underside of holiday shopping. However, how are we any different if we approach the holidays with an eye toward what we can get instead of what we can give?

Thanksgiving and Christmas are after all about giving God thanks for His bountiful provisions and about rejoicing in the promise of salvation declared by angels on high as God gave the best gift ever, sending His Son to be one of us, to live among us, to die for us, and to show us the way to new, everlasting life. The true focus of these special days is placed firmly on giving, not getting. Giving thanks. Giving gifts in order to imitate God as He has given us so much. And yet, we so often slip into selfishness and get carried away, if only for a minute, in the notion that it is better to get than to give.

The moral of the story is this – it is always better to give than receive. This is true not because there is anything inherently wrong with receiving gifts, but it is true because of the focus and attention of the giver. We give gifts, we give joy, we give happiness, we give people the chance to see how much we care about them and love them. We give of ourselves to express our love for others. We see then that the giver and the getter are both blessed when gifts are given. In taking the opportunity to give we find the greatest blessing.

Hopefully we took the time last month to truly give thanks for the people who matter to us. Now this month, let us look to these holy days as an opportunity to give with no thought of getting. Let us be selfless, not selfish. Let us be disappointed not by the gifts we wanted but did not receive, but let us be disappointed that we were not able to spend time with all of those who we love and who love us.

If we are obsessed with getting it becomes about the stuff, not the people. Giving gifts is not about the stuff. It is about the relationships we have. And there we find the true blessing of the holidays – the people we love. For each person in our life this year, let us seek what the angels promised on that first Christmas night so long ago, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14).

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Remember the Alamo!

Texas is the finest portion of the globe that has blessed my vision. – Sam Houston

Beginning at the Battle of Gonzales in October 1835 and ending swiftly in the 18 minute Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, the Texas Revolution birthed a new nation and saw one-third of the land mass of America change ownership. In between these two engagements we learn from history about the Battle of Coleto Creek, the massacre at Goliad, and the thirteen days of glory (Feb 23-Mar 6, 1836) wherein the defenders of the Alamo in San Antonio de Bexar bought time for General Sam Houston and his army to escape to the east during the Runaway Scrape.

All in all, Texian and Tejano forces were defeated, massacred, and chased from one end of the state to the other. But in the end, one of the swiftest and most decisive battles in history proved the resolve of the men who proclaimed as they charged the field, “Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo!”

What drove these men in the fight? What motivated those who knew that in battle they would most surely die? When the odds were so stacked against them, what kept them going?

The political climate in Mexico was one of upheaval. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had helped overthrow the sitting government and had in time been declared the sole ruler, a military dictator. The 1824 Constitution of Mexico which had guaranteed freedoms and rights to the citizens of Mexico and the settlers in Texas was rescinded and the army was used to force subjects into submission to the new government.

With their loss of rights, land, and privileges, the settlers appealed for a return to freedom and lost. They took up arms to defend themselves and win their freedom. The flag that flew over the Alamo was a Mexican flag with the year 1824 written in the middle, signifying defiance for the current regime and a desire to return to the rule of law under the previous Constitution.

As Col. Travis and Col. Bowie led the forces at the Alamo, joined by volunteers from Tennessee commanded by former Congressman David Crockett, this band of 180 or so men were determined to hold the fort and delay the advancing Mexican army. Travis appealed to the newly formed government of Texas asking for reinforcements but none ever came.

As Travis fought off a much larger force for 13 days the Constitutional Congress of the Republic of Texas met at Washington-on-the-Brazos and drafted the Texas Declaration of Independence. Signed on March 2, 1836 (Texas Independence Day), this document saw the birth of a new nation.

The battle at San Antonio ended on the morning of March 6 when Santa Anna’s troops finally breached the walls and put every remaining Alamo defender to the sword. No prisoners were taken. Women, children, and a few slaves were allowed to leave. Otherwise there were no survivors.

Later that month, Col. Fannin’s troops were overwhelmed and surrendered. On Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836, some 350 Texian prisoners were ordered to march to a new location. While on the road, marching single file, they were executed in Goliad.

The remaining Texian and Tejano forces were not demoralized, but instead were motivated by these atrocities. It steeled their courage and drove them to success at the final battle of the revolution. There was not only a desire for liberty and freedom – there was also a desire to ensure that these men at the Alamo and Goliad had not died in vain.

The Texians lost right up until the end. Houston’s strategy to hold out, to deliberately pick the field of battle for the final engagement, and to lead the Mexican army further and further away from its supply lines meant that in that final battle only 9 out of 900 Texian soldiers were killed while over 600 Mexican troops were killed and another 700, including Gen. Santa Anna, were captured.

The Republic of Texas existed as a sovereign nation from March 2, 1836 until its annexation as the 28th state by the United States on December 29, 1845. In order to pay off debt from the war Texas ceded to the United States land that stretches from Oklahoma and New Mexico, up through Kansas and Colorado into Wyoming.

From this brief history review we can learn valuable lessons for today. A small group of people committed to a task can overcome overwhelming odds and succeed in meeting their goals. This determination must be joined with endurance. To achieve our goals at work or at home we must be willing to work through the hardships that will arise, keeping in mind where we want to be, not where we are at the moment. We must learn to be diligent and deliberate in our actions, planning for success, and working with ambition and adaptability to stay the course.

The lessons of war teach us that in life we need to know the difference between strategy and tactics. Strategy refers to the overall goal, the big picture, the end game. Tactics are the means to implement the strategy, to make it happen one step at a time. That is why losing one or two battles does not settle the outcome of a war. Likewise, failure should only drive us to try again, to never give up, to press on, and to keep in mind the overall goals we have set. As we remember the Alamo this month, remember that out of defeat can come the motivation for history making victory.

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March Madness

If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears. – Cesare Pavese

In 1854 Henry David Thoreau made the statement, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” The phrase has evolved and we know it today in a variation like, “He’s marching to the beat of a different drum.”

This refers back to the days when a drum and bugle corps was utilized by the military to set the pace for marching or to give direction in battle. If a soldier was out of step, or out of ranks, he was said to be hearing a different drum. He was receiving mixed signals, or a signal altogether different from what everyone else was hearing.

The danger of course is that one man out of step in a unit can throw others off, interfering with the progress of the unit as a whole. He may also find himself in danger as he will become separated from the group. Several people abandoning unity and going their own way causes confusion.

We understand the lesson that there is strength in numbers and that a unified force with a singular purpose will usually accomplish its goals more efficiently and effectively than random individuals acting on their own. In business terms we see that a company made up of many individuals working to achieve common goals will be more effective in the marketplace than a company full of people all going their own way.

This knowledge has been expressed in the past as companies use vision statements and motivational catch phrases to make sure that everyone is on the same page. If a company is going to reach its goals, then the employees need to know what those goals are and the strategies to achieve them. Fuzzy goals or an uncertain target almost always guarantee a miss. Offering specifics makes the objective clear. Even then there are those who get out of line, step out of the ranks, and go their own way.

The temptation to go our own way is based in the deep desire we all have to express our individualism. This, after all, is the American Way, right? Independence and pride are part of what has made this nation as great as it is. However, there is a difference between independence and selfishness. One can have an independent spirit while still contributing to the community as a whole. Being independent does not mean we are alone.

A self serving attitude that is mistaken for an independent streak will ultimately lead to isolation and even self destruction. The truth is that as independent as we may be, we need each other. In a nation, a company, or a family we are dependent upon one another to some extent. No man is an island.

No one can be so independent as to be beyond the need for others. Who would really want to be all alone? That is why the isolation chamber is such an effective threat as a form of punishment. Cutting people off from all other social contact will break the will and bend the mind of any person. Yet so often we mistake being alone for being independent and we drive ourselves crazy. Even rebellious loners usually are part of a gang. They are not really alone.

In business we may be told to “think outside the box” and learn to “march to the beat of a different drum.” But then we are also told that there is not an “I” in “team.” Look closely though, and rearrange the letters, and you will find “me” there! Together we are a team. And if we all think outside the box and march to the beat of different drums then we cannot achieve common goals. We will all be going our own way. Imagine the chaos.

The key to prevent this marching madness is learning to be independent without being isolated. Independence for a common cause calls others to join us and help us in reaching our goals. In fact, the greatest moments of independence the world has ever seen are moments when we all stood up as one. Independent individuals standing together as an independent community, unified in purpose and resolve, are unstoppable. That, after all, truly is the American Way.

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