Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Meaning of Life

Why are we here? What is the purpose of our life? Where did we come from? Where do we go after death? Is there life after death or is that the end? These are man’s eternal questions, questions that we all ask and can never get any definite answers. But is that true? Are there no answers or just answers we don’t like?

The Darwinists believe that we are an accident – a sort of cosmic joke – that some errant cosmic particle collided with some collection of inorganic molecules that created an organic molecule. This molecule then mutated through some equally random process and developed the ability to replicate itself. These new organic cells continued to mutate and change into pond scum and ultimately into scientists but with slightly more intelligence. In effect the Darwinists believe that while we may have more intelligence than Chimpanzees, the cousins they claim, we really are just another class of animals. Like the animals we are the product of mating, the circumstances of our lives are serendipitous, our actions have no impact outside of the boundaries of our lives. We are born, we eat, we mate, we reproduce, and we die. We live and die – like animals – with no purpose other than to reproduce the species. This line of thinking is precisely what the atheist has. There is no God, life has no meaning, no purpose, there is no life after death and to think otherwise is wishful thinking.

That brings us to the other side where some believe that we are divinely created by God. That our circumstances are pre-ordained but it is up to us to lead a good and moral life. Lucifer was and Archangel who rebelled against God, was damned to Hell where he rules as Satan, and tempts mankind away from righteousness. Both Heaven and Hell are real although whether or not they are physical places is a little vague. Within this view of life, we have souls created by God, we are born, we live, and we die. But our soul is eternal and on death we are judged by our deeds and go to Heaven or are condemned to Hell and eternal punishment.

According to this view we have one chance at eternal joy in Heaven or through actions an eternal punishment in Hell. This view holds that the circumstance of our one life is ordained by God –but how God chooses those is unknown. So some people are born into poverty or as savages living in savage lands – while others are born into wealth and blessed with physical comfort. On one hand we have people like Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam Hussein who misuse power and commit great crimes. They exercised the free will given to them by God in the most evil way possible and we can imagine they ended in Hell, but what about people like Lenin who commit great crimes while thinking they are doing good? Did Lenin end in Hell or Heaven? Can these people ever redeem themselves? Are these people and their fates just a random choice? A throw of the dice by God where one person wins and another loses? That simply doesn’t sound logical so there has to be some rationale behind our lives and circumstances. God is just and undoubtedly rewards good and punishes bad but he is also forgiving so there must be a pathway out of Hell and to redemption – even for the most evil. And this brings us to reincarnation.

Virtually all religions, other than Atheism, believe in life after death as well as reincarnation. References to reincarnation were stricken from the Bible when it was canonized but some vague references still remain. But there is a growing body of evidence that there is life after death and that reincarnation is real. There has been growing interest in “Near Death Experiences” although what these represent remains controversial. The popular position among scientists is that these are nothing more than hallucinations emanating from a dying brain and prove nothing. But many scientists who study NDE’s are increasingly finding that they truly seem to support consciousness after death.

If we conclude that there is life (consciousness) after death then what does that mean? What is the purpose of our lives? The mystics in various ways tell us that our life on Earth is a form of punishment for leaving God in the first place and then not leading Godly lives. That we come to Earth to develop and educate our souls so that we may one day return to God’s grace. The circumstances of our life on Earth are determined by our actions in previous lives. The law of Karma prevails. We come to the Earth over and over in association with the same group of souls in various combinations but always with the same objective – to correct past wrongs while striving to improve our selves. What is the “Meaning of Life?” This question can only be answered by the individual because the purpose of each life is unique to that individual but over all the purpose is to return to God as his companion.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Characteristics of a Good Manager

Although the title Manager continues to exist in contemporary organizations, the number of people with this title or position is declining and is rapidly being replaced by the term leader. But is the title leader merely a euphemism for manager or is there is a difference between a leader and a manager? If there are differences between these two titles then what are those differences?

If we start at the most basic point, we can state that a manager is process oriented and focused on doing things “right” or at least doing them according to the approved process. In short, the manager “goes by the book”. On the other hand, a leader can be viewed as a people person who is focused on doing what they perceive to be “the right thing”. Therefore, a leader may or may not follow the book. Managers are appointed and leaders emerge is another way of viewing this dichotomy but as we all know leadership is like sex appeal, hard to describe but easy to recognize. Managers tend to do the tasks assigned and rely on doing them by the book rather than looking at the larger picture and adjusting their actions accordingly. It isn’t that managers are uncreative or unimaginative but rather they tend to be cautious. Leaders on the other hand tend to see things from a different perspective and do what they feel needs to be done regardless of whether it was assigned or not. Therefore, leaders tend to be risk takers. The following chart provides some contrasting views of the characteristics that distinguish managers and leaders.

Process and Control Oriented
Asks How and When
Accepts Things as They Are
Focuses on Structure and System
Short Range Orientation

Relies on Trust
Asks What and Why
Challenges the Situation
Focuses on People
Long Range Perspective

Although the above table lists the characteristics of leaders and managers it more accurately describes the actions of managers and leaders. Therefore, these are a broad generalization of the differences between managers and leaders. But when these characteristics are combined with various character traits, then the differences become more distinct .



However, in the final analysis it is not the presence or absence of these traits that distinguishes the leader from the manager; rather it is how they are applied by the individual that distinguishes them because both the manager and the leader will display some of these at some time. But for the moment let’s focus on the manager and what constitutes “good” management.

Not everyone will agree on what a good manager is but there are some basic practices that distinguish good management from ordinary or poor. The first of these skills is perhaps the hardest for a manager to master and that is delegation. Most managers can perform a task better than those they supervise so the tendency is to micro-manage. The challenge is to assign the task with specific parameters and objectives and then to go do something else. This is much more difficult than it sounds because the accountability is with the manager not the individual. What distinguishes a good manager is his ability to clearly define the task and monitor progress without supervising. It is the clarity of the assignment that is crucial.

For the newly minted manager it is important to understand that the performance of the organization will not exceed that of the leader. That means that if the leader is tardy in arriving at work then so will the staff and attendance could rapidly become a problem. If the leader dresses inappropriately so will the staff and the leader’s attitude and conduct will permeate the entire organization, but this is also true for positive things as well. The most important thing for the manager to understand is that how he/she acts will dramatically influence the performance of the organization.