March 31, 2009
By JD Messinger

Six months ago a muscular thug by the name of Ike comes barreling into Houston, Texas, bringing two cohorts in tow, wind and water. With complete disregard to universally accepted principles of accountability and responsibility, Ike and the gang fiddle with every aspect of Southern living. They turn life upside down and inside out, partying all night long. After dancing their jig and wrecking havoc, causing billions in damages and leaving thousands homeless, the misfits stumble off in a drunken stupor. Although a natural disaster, the destruction they created as well as the response, bare eerie similarities to the situation we now face in America.

As Ike and his horde threaten survival, depriving millions of electricity, shelter and commerce, a collection of neighbors decide not to wait for the feds (FEMA). They form a small militia of Texas Rangers that would make Chuck Norris proud. This is, after all, a place that brazenly declares, “Don’t Mess with Texas” on bumper stickers and shirts. The Texas Rangers buzz from house to house, chopping up trees and piling up debris while their wives share stories and cook burgers and hot dogs on the few remaining gas grills. These patriots demonstrate that pulling together shoulder to shoulder is one of American’s greatest qualities. Meanwhile, with no energy to fire up their Wii and Nintendo games, children return to the ancient tradition of talking, riding bicycles and playing outdoors. Ike and the boys sure caused a mess of things in a place that ain’t supposed to be reckoned with. Imagine, neighbors trespassing, grown men cutting trees without permits, piling debris on the streets and wives willfully violating the privacy act while the wind carries the aroma of beef, propane emissions and the sound of youthful laughter. Dear God, things were out of control. Or were they?

While I am trapped in LaGuardia airport unable to return home, Good Samaritan neighbors finish clearing my yard without a contract. I return home to see the remains, a ten by eight by three -foot pile of debris on a parcel of land at the end of my driveway. It sleeps there for eight weeks, patiently waiting for FEMA to mosey on by. It is a gentle reminder that expedient and effective solutions are closer to our mailbox than Washington. By this time all life beneath the aftermath has slowly been strangled by the deadfall born of the weather misfits, and federal support is too little too late to resuscitate my homestead.

After FEMA passes through I am left staring at a small parcel of barren soil. I contemplate three solutions; hiring an illegal immigrant at labor rates cheaper than dirt, purchasing sod at $1.50 a square foot (costing about $150), or simply getting topsoil and seeding the land myself. Although the first two options are easy and inexpensive, and I might be gratified when the eyesore is buried, I would not have any personal ownership, pride or satisfaction from the resolution. Hard work and sweat has its rewards, as Mom and Dad would say, so I choose the latter option and decide to wait six months until a sunny spring day.

As March rolls around I am tilling the soil with a hoe, and a bead of sweat trickles lazily down from my brow and into my eye. I pause to rest and wipe my brow with my sore, executive forearm. The dirt on my arm paints mud streaks that resemble war paint across my cheek. Perhaps the symbolism is fitting. Oh if the office could see me now, I would be ridiculed, I muse silently. But I don’t care what I look like. For you see, as I am having fun soaking up the sun, getting dirty, perspiring, and sending my blood pressure down, Wall Street is panicking as the Dow Jones Industrial Average hits a new low and sends blood pressure up.

I carefully sprinkle seed around my slice of the American dream. When I finish, I dribble three bags of fertilizer-enriched topsoil over the seed. I rake smooth the icing on the top of the yard and stand back to admire my effort. It is time for the fun part, watering the seeds. I set the nozzle to the gentle stream and shower the land with the very element that contributed to its initial destruction. As the birds sing I am reminded of the songs from Pocahontas and the Lion King and how we are all a part of the circle of life. Instead of being petulant and reproachful, cursing the elements and my misfortune, I choose to be happy and forgiving as I drink from the well of life.

As water droplets whisk through the air I witness a beautiful phenomenon. Microscopic particles of ultraviolet light enter the liquid H20 and reflect off the droplets, exiting out the other side and separating the original white photons into a stunning display of sciences’ artistic talent. The rainbow is spectacular, so I toss the hose and rush inside to retrieve my Coolpix digital camera. After snapping a few photos, I realize that the newly seeded yard is never going to survive and reach maturity without protection. I venture into the jungle that is my garage, gather some chicken fence, and erect a shield surrounding my creation. The entire activity costs $25, takes two hours, and results in a few aching muscles, a dirty pair of Bermuda shorts, a sweaty t-shirt and worst of all, a quarter inch splinter imbedded in my palm, compliments of a cranky hoe from the jungle.

Somewhere along the way, human fiddlers perpetuate a great misconception and confuse millions into believing that life is a destination called retirement at station number 401k. They tacitly imply that living is about tomorrow, money makes you happy, and that work is not supposed to be a joy. They are wrong on all counts. As with the divine inspiration of a rainbow that encourages me to snap a picture and savor the moment, I believe the divine creator encourages us to remember that who we are is not what we do, and that money is a means to an end, not the end itself. Though I do business I am not a businessman, and outsourcing work to the lowest bidder is not always the wisest solution. Instead, we need to remember our dreams and enjoy the power of ideas that fill us with hope and inspiration now, and not wait for the train to stop at station 401k.

Deep inside us is a child and we are each born with a future, a purpose and dream. Our mission is to discover, believe and use our essence to sow our seeds and fulfill our purpose. Our dreams are completely unique, playful and engaging, and they keep us vibrantly alive if we care, dare and fight to nurture these divine seeds. We demonstrated our natural gifts, our essence, when we picked up crayons and doodled on the walls. We collected Popsicle sticks and taped them together to create toy cars, houses, boats and bridges. Many of us even sang in the shower. All the while we were completely captivated by own little world, talking to people Mom and Dad could not see, singing and dancing to music no one else could hear. The secret to successfully harvesting dream seeds is the same as sowing grass.

Taking an idea from thought to commercialization is one part inspiration and ten parts perspiration. One cannot quit when the sweat gets in our eyes, or our muscles start to ache. And for heaven sake, don’t wine because of a splinter. It’s to be expected! Just pull the damn thing out and get back to digging and raking.

Remember that one does not follow their heart down a yellow brick road to find a pot of gold. If money is the most important goal in life, then get a job on Wall Street. Oh wait, make that Madison Avenue. No wait, they are laying people off as well. Perhaps it’s best to think about what the heart desires a moment longer and acknowledge that being an entrepreneur is not about making profits. Ask any highly successful entrepreneur and they will tell you it is all about passion and having fun. I recall the story of Joe Farrell who left his seat on the stock exchange to become a builder. When I asked him why he said, “I know it sounds funny, but I just love the smell of dirt and wood.” Do what you love and love what you do: entrepreneurs don’t work, they play. Wealth and success is the byproduct of a passionate and happy person. It is about satisfaction, which lasts a lifetime, not gratification that lasts an hour. It’s the difference between outsourcing yard work and planting seeds.

When the time is right the entrepreneur inside you will need tools to sow your dreams seeds. Before you begin, find a researching hoe and scratch beneath the superficial wants of customers to reveal their true needs. Next, get yourself a marketing rake to spread the word about the services you offer. As your business grows, you will need technology hoses to provide information pipelines. And of course, financial fertilizer is a necessity to pay for all these tools and to ensure a deep root structure that sustains rapid, healthy growth.

After planting the seeds, this is only the end of the beginning. If it’s a nice yard, don’t be surprised when people want to stomp all over it. To ensure that your yard doesn’t become their yard, or worse yet, they kill it before the chairs and grill are in place, protect it with a steal reinforced, electric intellectual property fence.

After this is all complete, you must tour, water and weed the operation daily. One rotten weed will destroy all your hard work. As soon as you spot a sprouting sucker between the glowing, green grass, pull it out, stomp on it, then place a curse on its’ children. Weeding is critical or all is for naught.

Just as I waited for a sunny day, you must be patient and composed because timing is critical. Just as we could not control Ike and the gang, no one can control the market. Assess the barren and destroyed remnants of any failed predecessors and develop a plan, making all the mistakes on paper. Calmly wait for the day when all the elements and stars are aligned and in position to support your dream and nourish the seed of your soul. You can be comforted in knowing that today your chances are better than ever before. Never before have so many needed so much and been so willing to consider a new innovation.

Everyday over 27,000 Americans lose their jobs and another 5,000 go bankrupt, as the essence of everything is changing – industries, retirement, educational institutions, even the nature of capitalism and role of government. Entrepreneurs are born from a lady named necessity, the mother of all ideas, and she gives birth to innovation. From Houston to Chicago and New York to Los Angeles, Americans everywhere recognize the critical need for social entrepreneurs, who as David Bornstein says, “Are the driven, creative individuals who question the status quo, exploit new opportunities, refuse to give up, all while trying to make the world a better place.” Social entrepreneurs will save our homes, businesses and communities as they operate under a 21st century interconnected and interdependent mindset. Social entrepreneurs are the warriors of the light, human rainbows exploding out the back end of outdated business molecules, shining new light with green technologies, renewable energy and alternative health modalities. As our social entrepreneur rainbows create bridges between the old and the new, let them be anchored by a two pots of golden principles.

The first golden principle is that the Holy Grail of life is not something we can buy, sell or hold contrary to whatever Wall Street or Madison Avenue might want us to believe. Money and materialistic objects do not bring happiness or satisfaction, only short-term gratification.

The second golden principle is that what binds humanity is far greater than what separates humanity. Although we share 99.9 percent the same genes, and 97 percent the same air, water and minerals, there is a force that is greater still. This great binding force is not something we can see, touch, smell, taste or hear, so you can turn off your television and radio, and stop reading the paper or digging in the attic searching for it. It is neither a place nor a thing, yet it is everywhere and everything. It was born, but it does not die. It creates and it destroys. It is eternally present and has been known, studied and referenced in all cultures and throughout all ages, often by different names. It provides life to a blistering volcano as equally as a gentle breeze. It is as expansive as the ocean and yet as diminutive as a spider. We cannot see it or touch it, but we feel it every waking moment. It is the energy that pulses through our veins, the fertilizer in our yard, and the air in our lungs. It is the silvery web that is woven through every atom that makes up the fabric of life. When we violate the universal laws of this cosmic force, this wonderful counselor, make no mistake, one day we all pay. All it wants is peace and love, balance and harmony.

As the essence of an individual is the summation of his principles and actions, so is a nation the aggregate of the thoughts and collective behaviors of its’ people. Just as The Secret helps us understand that we are the manifestation of our thoughts, so too is a nation the manifestation of it’s collective thoughts. This is why our passionate social entrepreneurs will be our salvation. Their ideas and leadership will ask us to make some difficult choices: Will it be toys or nature, self or the many, today or tomorrow, gratification or satisfaction? History will look back on our future and say it was a love story between what and whom we love more. May God help us pass this test.

This brings us full circle to our rainbow and the inspirational lyrics from the wonderful world of Disney that remind us that we are all connected to each other, in a circle, in a hoop that never ends. Fertilizer from Washington can be a good thing as long as we embrace the lessons shared above and the farmers have the hoes, rakes and most importantly, the will to farm. But no fertilizer on earth can nourish seeds in a soil contaminated by misfits who abdicate responsibility and accountability just so they can enjoy the nightlife before staggering off to rehab. Eventually a new dawn will come, exposing their carnage, and Texas Rangers will have to clean it up all over again.

(C) Copyright 2009 by JD Messinger

Author's Bio: 

J.D. Messinger is the former Chief Executive Officer of Ernst & Young Consulting (Singapore) and Cap Gemini E&Y (South East Asia). A global expert on the energy industry and a global thought leader on change, and adaptation, JD was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy by the U.S. Secretary of the Navy and was one of 37 Distinguished Graduates. He was a fireman, nuclear engineer and qualified submarine officer in the United States Navy submarine fleet and served on three submarines during the Cold War.

In 1986 he joined Exxon and served in various executive management positions including supply, distribution, transportation, bulk terminal and truck fleet operation and fuel products pricing, analyzing macro and micro supply and demand factors. As a crisis leader JD successfully supervised an 850-person team and a fleet of 125 ships and aircraft, cleaning over 1,000 miles of Alaskan shoreline after the Valdez oil spill.

In 1995, JD joined Ernst & Young LLP (U.S) and became a partner managing global supply chain, outsourcing and systems implementations projects for clients such as Royal Dutch Shell, Phillips Petroleum, Exxon Mobil, Engen Oil, the Singapore Ministry of Defence, the Singapore Prime Minister, Maybank and Wal-Mart. In 1998 he moved to Singapore and as the director of the energy, chemical and utilities industry sector, gew the business twenty fold in two years. He then became the CEO for Ernst & Young Consulting Singapore and in 2000, after the Cap Gemini acquisition, JD was appointed CEO of Cap Gemini Ernst & Young (South-East Asia) where he was responsible for all IT and management consulting services. In this capacity, he served as a key advisor for innovation and economic development for the Singapore Prime Ministers Office as well as numerous national statutory boards and government ministries in Singapore, Malaysia and China. After September 11, 2001 JD became a senior advisor to the Singapore Ministry of Defence on innovation and helped design and develop adaptive response capabilities.

In January 2003, JD founded the Essence group of companies which provide informational, educational and entertaining offerings to accelerate personal, corporate and global evolution. A renowned speaker, JD has presented and spoken to tens of thousands of people on preparing for the unexpected and how to develop creative, flexible and innovative teams to solve complex national and global challenges.

He has been featured in such major publications as the Business Times, New Straits Times, and Far East Economic Journal. He has presented live on CNBC Asia "Power Chiefs" special, global Discovery Channel and numerous times on Channel News Asia, including a special show where he was featured as the IT Person of the Week.

JD is a talented and gifted creator, inventor, and writer and has created, produced and hosted his own television show, radio shows and invented a series of internationally successful leadership games. JD is a lover of science, math, evolutionary theories and philosophy. His favorite pastimes include research, travel, scuba diving, fencing and yoga.