The Scoop @ MSCO

2007

The Guardians Of Christmas

It is snowing in New York. Silver Bells is playing in the background. Millions are buying gifts for loved ones. Christmas trees light the streets. In almost every home across the land, it is a Silent Night. Peaceful, safe, free.

This is the scene in the United States Of America. The world’s most enduring republic. The blessed plot of land that gave rise to Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, Franklin Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jonas Salk, Thomas Jefferson.

It is a time when we turn inward. To home and family and houses of worship. To the fireplace and the holiday gatherings and the table of plenty. And as we retreat into our private sanctuaries, into our Currier and Ives Christmas fantasies, we may forget that it is all our gift from those who cannot have the peace, the Silent Night, the safety, the hearth. Who cannot have their families. Who are unable to experience the twinkling of the Main Street lights.

It is our gift from The Guardians Of Christmas. The only ones who are deprived its majestic magic in the bulwark of democracy. In the beacon of freedom. In the USA.

It is the men and women of our armed forces. In Iraq. In Afghanistan. These are The Guardians Of Christmas…..and paradoxically, the only ones who cannot sit by the fire in safety and soak it up in the greatest nation in the world.

They are in hell holes so that we can sip eggnog in the serenity of a snow shrouded picture village in Colorado. They patrol mean streets, they die on them, some will take a bullet on Christmas day, so that the dictators and the terrorists and the America haters of all stripes cannot penetrate the quiet and peaceful beauty that is America.

It has been this way throughout the centuries. The world resents the power of the American spirit. The world wants to destroy it. Standing armies and suicide bombers have tried it. And are aching to do so again.

But The Guardians Of Christmas won’t let it happen. They never do. They are impenetrable. They forgo Christmas so that we can sing carols on Elm Street. In my town, a bonfire will be lit in the village green, near the flagpole and the war memorial. For 100 years, men and women have marched out of this bucolic place, huddled in ships and sailed into the brutal lands that have no peace. No law. No joy. No safety. No Silver Bells and smiling shoppers and the serenity of a season like no other.

The only way to truly celebrate Christmas is to celebrate it in the United States. And the only ones who can’t partake are The Guardians of it all.

Tell your children. Make sure they understand. Because you do!

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When We Tell Ourselves Lies

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Many of us are dream chasers, like kites floating through the Western sky, the dreams captivate and drive us. Running after them, feeling the wind in our face, we are exhilarated. Intoxicated. If we can only catch the kite, grab hold of the dream, we will pass through to another dimension. We will understand the mysteries. It will be our Rosetta Stone.

The rosetta stone helps you to understand...The Rosetta Stone, the dream, will be our prism. Through it we will see the truth. So we run into the wind and chase the kite. Such is the life of a dream chaser.

I am happy to live that life. I would have it no other way. But I know that this is a lie wrapped in a lovely and deceptive package. The kite is simply an illusion dancing in the blue. You can love it but you cannot rely on it. Not to reveal the truth about anything but your own limitless and invaluable imagination.

The real truth is delivered in the hard boiled experiences of the street. Of the nights alone in a laboratory or in front of a blank computer screen, searching for the words or the formulas that don’t come easily. They are embedded in Edison’s revelation that genius is 99% sweat and 1% kites.

The great among us know how to look past the lies we tell ourselves in the midst of our romantic delusions and how the focus on the tedious work of experimenting with compounds delivers the first antibiotic. Ask Alexander Fleming. And how the refusal to accept the lies about vaccines, led to the cure for polio. Look up Jonas Salk. And that the great bulwarks of media could be torn down and humiliated. Ask Rupert Murdoch.

When the lies are pipe dreams we refuse to see through, they are stop signs that thwart our personal achievement. But when they are soaring kites that prompt us to chase the horizon, to look beyond it, to enter states of thought and wonderment that place all of the lies in their proper light and turn them into catalysts for discovering the truth, they are divine. Divine.

Einstein liked to say that his intelligence was a wonderful asset but his sense of imagination enabled him to encircle the globe. It is so interesting to realize that in the right hands, our hands if we allow it, if we adore the kites but see them for what they are, we recognize they are something so strange and so sweet.

They are lies that open windows to the truth.

Mark Stevens
CEO

Meet Mark Live at the Learning Annex in NYc

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Mark Stevens Featured in Brandweek

Check out Mark’s Newest Blog post for Brandweek:
Mark Stevens Asks Applebee’s: What Were You Thinking?

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When The Words Lose Their Meaning And The Meaning Loses Its Words

We are deep in the midst of the holiday season and a lovely time of year it can be.

But I have a question: Isn’t every day a holy day? Do holy days have a season or is life a string of holy days?

Actually, I firmly believe the latter is true. Is there ever a day of our lives that is not a wonder? That we are not blessed by God in the most extraordinary way?

It's Not All About Presents Photo from Heather Garland on flckr.comThe problem is, so many of our words have lost their meaning. Holidays are no longer thought of as holy days. They are viewed as turkey days and gift buying days. And that is the polar opposite of the original purpose and the true meaning embedded in the words.

This is endemic throughout our society. What do the words trust, faith, love, honor, commitment really mean? Timeless and enduring qualities, of course, but when these words are used without thought, when the holy is buried in holiday, when the thanks in Thanksgiving is simply six letters tacked on to six more, we lose something so rich and deep that can make all of life that more precious.

We lose the honesty that makes things genuine. And by “things,” I mean relationships… The bonds between family members, friends and lovers. Unless these unions are knitted together with words and actions ripe with true meaning, they are mere pretenses. Hollow games people play to try and camouflage the truth. But the truth insists on revealing itself.

All of this is true in business as it is in the ways of the heart. Do we tell our clients and customers we care about them and then treat them as just another set of numbers locked in a server? The answer is almost a universal “yes.” So much so that when a company, a manager, an entrepreneur is determined to treat the people in their world with genuine care, with words that have meaning, then we witness right before our eyes that the holy is the beacon in holiday and we are astounded by it.

It is a mistake to think we live in Balkanized worlds: the personal, the business, the religious. The walls we often think clearly divide these realms are mythical.

Build Your Relationships Photo from shirishbendre on flcikr,comWhen we purchase something from an automobile company or a pharmacy, we no longer believe we are initiating a relationship. We think we are buying something…engaging in a cold and common transaction. So when a company or a pharmacy gives back more than a product but a set of human values along with it, we are touched in a way that makes us customers for life. The business, like the lover, like the friend, that demonstrates that the bonds that bind are true and generous and genuine, are of immense value to all of us. We hold them far above the heads of the pretenders.

There is but one world. The same one where the personal, the business and the religious intersect. This is the crossroads of greatness. Not marked by physical strength or wealth or intellectual power, but more by being the kind of person, the kind of business, that adds meaning to our existence. Do you value anything more? Is there a greater goal?

Happy holy days. Everyday.

Mark Stevens
CEO

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Five Minutes To Forever

Sail into eternity. From **Mary** at Flickr.comIt is ironic that from the earliest days of our cognizant lives, we are programmed to fear its end. Especially, the last five minutes.

This entire notion, this ripe fear and in many cases dread, is preposterous. We have no idea where we came from, and why we arrived in the world, but we are certain that in death we are leaving it. That it represents an end. Finality.

How is it that we admit to looking backwards to our arrival on earth with no knowledge but look forward to our departure with great certainty? A certainty that has no basis. No founding. It is mindful of our predecessors who were convinced that if they sailed into the horizon, they would fall off the face of the earth.

Little did they know that the truth was the polar opposite: that they could sail into the horizon for eternity.

The fact is we are preoccupied with living a long life when life as we know it is never long. If we live 100 years, it is but a blip. And to complicate matters, but to introduce an essential reality. Whose life was longer, Mozart’s or Jane Smith, who died at 98 after a 60-year career as an insurance actuary. And who hated her work from the moment she left college and took a seat in her cubicle at Homestead Life Insurance Co.?

We have a monumental choice before us all: to be in the life fulfillment business-meaning we live every day without concern for when it ends, if it does, or to be in the life protection business-meaning we spend nearly every day seeking to postpone or circumvent the inevitable.

All too many people do the latter. And in the process, they waste so much of the joy of being alive on this earth. They seek safety. They run from risk. They make sure not to work too hard. They are sticklers about having balance in their lives, whatever that means. They look askance at those who burn the candles at both ends, walk the high wire without a safetyLet go and live life. From Jeff Kubina at Flickr.com net. Start companies with their life savings. Quit “good” jobs for careers that bring them joy. Abdicate the throne to marry a lover.

The only way to truly live, to achieve success as a manager, artist, factory worker, actor, CEO, mother, father, friend-is to do it with abandon. Without fear of when it will end. The more you try to control the ending, the less control you have over it. It won’t ask for your permission. It won’t ask for your timetable. It will just end. Nothing you can do will stop it.

And that’s the good news. You can let go. It’s out of your hands. And even better, the last five minutes here may be the countdown to forever.

Mark Stevens
CEO

How do you live your life before your five minutes are up?


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