Geoff Smith's Blog

Posted OnMay 02, 2022

Warning:  Some readers of this blog will find it wildly naïve.

We are all and forever – but especially in uncertain times – bombarded with positive, simplistic and sometimes maudlin sayings and quotes intended to make us feel better.  Much of the time, they provide no help at all.

Even so, I came across one the other day, attributed to the late great Jimi Hendrix that I’m having trouble getting out of my head.  Bear with me here.  Apparently the guitarist wrote:

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, there will be peace.”

I get that this zen-ish little truism is unlikely to stop (the) war, any more than John Lennon did, but I also get that Jimi’s insight doesn’t just apply to global power struggles.  It’s probably just as relevant to neighbourhood relationships, marriage and the procurement and construction of large infrastructure projects.  Choose your circumstance, Hendrix still nails it.  

If you get squeamish around the word ‘love’, then insert instead ‘empathy’ at the beginning.  And if ‘power’ doesn’t exactly fit your situation, maybe insert the word ‘ego’ at the end.  If you really want to, switch out the word ‘peace’ for ‘success’.  Massage it however you like, it still shines a thoughtful light, especially these days.

If you’re still with me here, I’d offer the following:

1:  There is nothing weak, or turn the other cheek here.  Bullies must be taken out, whether they are on the world stage or across your back fence.  As Teddy Roosevelt said, before his Comms team got involved:  ‘I’ll share a pint of Guinness, ya bastard, but I’m bringing my shillelagh.’ 

Anyway, just because you don’t like to fight doesn’t mean you can afford to forget how.  “In times of peace, prepare for war”, and all that, obviously.

2:  In business, if you’re good at what you do, you can earn the luxury of choosing with whom you want to hang out.  Work with people you respect and trust and whose company you enjoy.  There’s far more money to be made when you aren’t fighting, when your litigation time and costs are zero, and the added bonus is that it’s a lot more fun getting up in the morning.  I’ve been golfing with my cousin for decades.  He brings a guest, I bring a guest.  We ignore all of the usual rules of course, but one rule is sacrosanct.  To indulge the vernacular, it’s the ‘no asshole rule’.  I’m trying to figure out why I haven’t embraced that approach with as much discipline in the other aspects of my life.

3:  The world has certainly become more polarized and just plain tougher in the last five years.  ‘Wedge’ politics, which drives people into camps and tribes, isn’t just being used in the US.  We see it in Canada now all the time, utilized by all major parties for short term advantage, and I believe it’s becoming a threat to our federation.  I read recently where somebody said “It’s hard to get people passionate about the middle”.   I’d suggest that if we are going to save what has made Canada the best place to live in this world, then ‘ordinary’ Canadians, like you and me, are going to have fight very passionately for that middle, or it will disappear before we know it.

So I’ll end with a quote I got from George Schultz, in an interview as he turned 100 in 2020.  Schultz was Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State at the pinnacle of the cold war; he was obviously nobody’s pushover.  Here is the core advice Schultz wanted to deliver as he became a centenarian:

“Trust is the coin of the realm.  When trust was in the room, whatever that room was – the family room, the school room, the locker room, the office room, the military room – good things happened.  

When trust was not in the room, good things did not happen.  

Everything else is just details”.

Jimi Hendrix and George Schultz were on the same page.  And we are going to need to get passionate about those values, or lose them.  That’s all I’m trying to say here.

Thanks for reading.