The Cure of Virtue in an Age of Weakness

Over the last few weeks at Clear and Open, we discussed employee engagement often. One of the challenges of addressing disengagement in the workplace is the cultural issue. I don’t mean your company culture, although that’s inevitably a factor. I mean the world culture. We live in a disengaged world, and it didn’t use to be this way.

Managers today have a job they ought not to have, and for the most part are not equipped: to teach employees how to be virtuous people. Most managers think that if they train their people to do their work well that it translates into excellent results.

How’s that been working for you? You can’t trust them. They don’t follow-through. They need constant supervision.

Managers today must teach their people not only how to do the work, but how to relate to work itself, as a vehicle for their own expression of virtue.

When I talk like this, most have no idea what I mean. Maybe that’s you right now, and that’s okay. People mostly don’t even think this way anymore. That’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility.

If you go back in time more than just a few hundred years, anywhere in the world, you find a group of people attempting to embody a set of values. Whether they were Christians, Muslims, Samurai, or Satanists, they strove to live their lives rigorously according to what they thought was right.

Whether we think they’re right or good is not the point. For our ancestors, part of the purpose of life was to become virtuous, whatever that meant to them. Their lives were fundamentally about becoming better people according to a rigorous set of shared cultural standards, and each day was another opportunity to do that.

Look around. Do you see that in your world?

Do you see why as a species we’re starving for meaning, and why the world is such a mess?

In a rigorous, meaning-based culture, work is like any other part of life: an opportunity to be tested, to become stronger, and to embody one’s virtues better than before.

In today’s instant-gratification, sugar-coat-my-everything, I-don’t-read-I-watch-videos culture, learning mostly happens when it’s emotionally comfortable and served on a platter…or if people absolutely have to, whereupon they whine about how hard life is, rather than relish how that which does not kill them makes them stronger.

The hunger for excellence in the human species is dying, and I see business as the venue in which it can be reborn. This is how you replace mediocrity with excellence in a business, because businesses grow when people do.

Clear and Open is a set of teachings meant to be embodied as in the lost days of old—the days of virtue discussed in this post. The most basic of this teaching is its Code of Conduct, which if taken seriously transforms any person’s life and the work they’re involved in. Want to learn more about it? Check out my YouTube series on procrastination and how it affects the code.

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