To thine own self be true — Shakespeare’s Polonius in Hamlet

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Be True To Yourself

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Amnesty International Protects Women

Scoliosis

take your hero to dinner

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polonius

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http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-sobriety/201201/thine-own-self-be-true

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To Thine Own Self Be True

      What is your gut telling you? 

“To thine own self be true” is one of the underlying tenets of recovery. But how do we honor this wise sentiment by Shakespeare? One way is to check in with the “me” that I’m trying to be true to. Checking in can involve slowing down, writing, meditating, and noticing what we are experiencing rather than running on autopilot. Checking in tends to involve tuning in to our body or to our “higher self,” rather than tuning in to our “monkey mind” (the running commentary that we are telling ourselves.) It is a subtle distinction, but let’s take this moment to see if we can tap into the difference. For the next 10 seconds, turn your attention to what your head is telling you …

 

What did you hear?

Now, let go of whatever you heard and without trying to figure anything out, turn your attention to your body. Perhaps you’ll do a quick body scan to see if any place in particular would like your attention, or one spot will automatically engage you. Just rest your attention on your physical self.

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What did you notice?

For most people, the two tend to be very different experiences. For example, I just did this exercise and noticed that my head was telling me about the TV in the background, thinking that I’m hungry, wanting to get back to writing this post, etc. But when I checked in with my body, I could feel some anxiety in my belly, some tension in my shoulders, and a longing to slow down and breathe.

If I stayed attending to my head, I could run myself ragged working through a to-do list all day. When I checked in with my body, I realized that I could actually use a breather. In this case, I believe that “honoring myself” means leaning towards the latter. The more we practice checking in, the wiser we become about discerning what is happening and how we can best take care of ourselves.

In terms of checking in with your physical self, did you know that the gut is literally your second brain? The intricate network of millions of neurons lining our guts greatly influences our mood and our thinking. The second brain doesn’t do much for articulating conscious thought, but it is particularly adept at feeling. This is where the saying “butterflies in the stomach” comes from. For some of us, we need to listen to our gut more often. We sometimes ignore what it is saying because it isn’t telling us what we want to hear. But the upside is that when we check in, we gain more opportunity to be true to ourselves, to take care of ourselves, and to live authentically with what is actually happening—not just what our head is telling us.

So, what is your gut telling you?

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http://www.soulprogress.com/html/ArticlesFolder/Articles/ToThineOwn.shtml

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To Thine Own Self Be True

by David Truman about the author

The fork in the road

What we feel is important is what matters

Self-condemnation: a dirty trick

Discernment still stands

Two apparent problems with “to thine own Self be true”

Life is an integrity test

Integrity is the key to a good life. Destiny and well-being depend on it. Our confidence, our openness to love and intimacy, our ability to stay close to God, all come and go according to how well we follow our hearts.

In integrity we live; without it we die. Being untrue to your heart will destroy your life, and create your own personal hell. But if you follow your heart, it will create heaven on earth for you. Each moment in life, each choice, is a fork in the road. Which way will we go? Where will we end up? It depends on how well we obey our hearts.

In the chart below, you can see how your integrity (or lack thereof) shapes your destiny.

The fork in the road

When we violate our own feelings about what’s right and what we should be doing, we shut down, and turn away from happiness, love, and all the most beautiful things in life — we just don’t think beauty fits us well, so we reject it. But when we follow our hearts and our conscience, we open up to life, and let it flood in.

You can see it in the lives of everyone you know. When a person does wrong — unless they decide to fix it — they will quickly distance themselves from everyone they love. They no longer want to be happy, because it just doesn’t seem fitting. And if you reach out to them in such a compressed state, you will have a hard time getting through.

On the other hand, when a person is living rightly and beautifully, they become bright and happy. They are outgoing. They want to talk. They want to relate closely with people. They become permeable to love; and they become robust on the basis of receiving love and exchanging love in helpful, meaningful, uplifting ways.

Integrity determines how open we are to love, and God, and good; and that’s why it is so important. Because in openness, everything is allowed to live, but in closedness, everything is condemned to die. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and it all begins with integrity.

“To thine own self be true” ends the destructive cycle that is put in motion when we ignore our heart’s own feelings.

What we feel is important is what matters

Of course, not all negative actions are equally consequential, and neither are all positive actions. How strongly an action or choice affects your destiny depends on how important it is to you. If it is crucial to your heart, then it is crucial. No matter if it seems trivial to others, no matter if it would be called unimportant by religion or culture.

There could be something no one else has ever heard of, or has any concern about whatsoever; but it’s that by which you live or die, that by which you are condemned or praised within your own heart.

If a person sincerely believes they should become more disciplined, they will feel terrible if they don’t. It will hang over their head like a dark cloud, changing the tone of their life for the worse — even if nobody else cares about it. For that individual there is no greater condemnation than that which they would visit upon themselves for having betrayed their own heart.

That shows exactly how personal this really is. It makes no difference what anyone else says; a person is condemned only by their own hand.

So when you get to Heaven’s gate, and Peter asks you, “What accounting would you like to give of yourself? Is there anything you’ve done you’re not proud of?” and you give your account, he will then ask, “And what do you think is the significance of that? Would you go ahead and jump into hell for it? Do you think that would be an appropriate destiny? If so, there it is. Jump.”

Nobody would push you. You would jump because you didn’t want to be loved. You would jump because you wanted to hide. You see, no one would have to do anything about it; it’s all up to you. You would jump on your own account. 

There is no condemnation other than one’s own self-condemnation.

That, in fact, is what we do every day: We either jump into hell, because we feel bad about ourselves, or our hearts soar into heaven, due to the happiness and elevation we feel from a right and loving life. Or perhaps we hang in purgatory, because we are dissatisfied with our lives, though not dramatically guilt-ridden.

And that’s the long and short of our entire existence. We are condemned or resurrected by our own fidelity to ourselves; by our integrity, as measured only by our own heart standards. No other measure stands.

Self-condemnation: a dirty trick

But in truth, self-condemnation is never appropriate. It is a dirty trick of the ego, designed to bring one down. It is not God’s will that we should so harshly condemn ourselves. Only the ego would interpret our wrongdoing to mean that we are bad, irredeemable, wretched creatures. Only the ego would respond to guilt by shutting down, and dropping out of life. The spirit knows better. The spirit recognizes that no matter what we do, we are good, and we are capable of good. And when we see that we have done wrong, the spirit would jump to correct it, and to heal it; rather than steep in shame and self-hatred.

We don’t need to condemn ourselves. But it is good and godly that we condemn our wrong actions, and that we reject badness. That is our Divine sensitivity at work. So, this is not a clarion call to throw away the power of discernment; only to realize that we are not what we do. Our actions do not change the person we essentially are. They do not rid us of the basic goodness and sensitivity that God placed in our hearts. So, we can always renounce bad, and turn to the good that our hearts always call us to.

Discernment still stands

In this “brave new world,” many people understand the idea that they are good no matter what they have done. But few understand that that does not eliminate the need for morality. The New Agers boldly proclaim: “We are free of these ideas of right and wrong, good and evil. We are good children of God, no matter what.” To that I would respond: “Yes, you are good children of God no matter what. But if you don’t live that, what good does it do for anybody? Do you feel good about that?”

It is true integrity to condemn the actions your heart hates — actions that violate the law of love, which is your heart’s law. Those actions should be condemned, because they are hurtful, and they are not true to who you really are.

Two apparent problems with “to thine own Self be true”

1. What about God? When I say, “It doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks. You have to do what your heart says is right,” one question that may arise is: “But what about God? What about the promptings God gives in every moment? Don’t you need to surrender to those in order to be right?”

It may seem like a contradiction, but the conflict is overcome when you realize that God’s Heart is your own heart. God gave you His Heart. Your sensibilities and sensitivities are no different than God’s. When you feel moved to help someone in need, when you feel guilty for doing wrong, when your heart responds lovingly to another human being, that is God in you.

So, to do right by God is to do right by your own heart. God is not some external authority, telling you what to do. God is inside you, and not different from you. You are made from God.

Thus, there is no difference between satisfying God, and satisfying your own heart. The two are the same. Isn’t that beautiful?

2. What about others? Many people think that to “follow your heart” means to be whimsical, inconsiderate, selfish, and non-committal. But tell me honestly: how do you feel about whimsical, flakey people?

Following your heart has been given a bad name in this world. In truth, no human heart would ever approve of selfish, whimsical living. Like I said, your heart is the Heart of God. The very Heart that would rail against the injustices of the world, that would nag you when you are letting somebody down, that would inspire you to do right by others.

People who say they are “following their heart” when they are actually living selfishly are confused. They are ignoring their heart. They have become experts at suppressing the cries of their heart for rightness, love, commitment, loyalty, reliability — all qualities that the human/Divine heart values highly.

So, once again, there is no conflict. As long as you are in line with your own heart, you will do right by God and all others.

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night follows day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

— William Shakespeare

Life is an integrity test

So that’s it. Now you understand the whole thing. The entire evolutionary career is an integrity test. Everything else is absolutely irrelevant. Until heaven and earth pass away, not a single letter will be removed from the law of your heart — which is the law of love and rightness. That’s all that counts in life. So, be true to yourself; and all will be well.

 

about the author

Please feel free to share copies of this article. We only ask that you mention its source. – The Living Love Fellowship –

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http://www.deloitte.com/view/en_US/us/Insights/Browse-by-Content-Type/deloitte-review/374d4e8dc8405310VgnVCM3000001c56f00aRCRD.htm

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To Thine Own Self Be True

Sustaining superior performance requires knowing what should change and what should stay the same

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Deloitte Review - Did You Say Free?By Michael Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed > Illustration by Sterling Hundley

When and how a company must change in order to sustain superior performance is an evergreen topic of the art and science of management. And like just about every other question of substance, actionable truth is often lost in a vast wasteland of vacuous aphorisms. As but one example, consider that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” certainly rings true, yet one is simultaneously exhorted to “do it to yourself before someone else does it to you.”

A common synthesis is to argue that when change is required the key is to  remain true to some set of core values. Everything should be on the table, we’re told, except that. Sadly, it’s an answer that merely raises another question. How is one to know what those values are—what Polonius in Hamlet called our “self” to which we must be “true”? To speak of preserving core values is to give only the illusion of specificity, for it amounts to saying “don’t change what you shouldn’t.” If we want to make the pursuit of corporate success more predictable, we need something more objective and measurable—and far less circular.

Based on our research into the behaviors of companies with superior performance, we believe it is possible to say something more about the kinds of stability and change that are systematically associated with success or failure. Our findings are not conclusive and our prescriptions are not completely quantitative, but we hope you will find here the seeds of a more transparent, more scientific and less philosophical approach to the pursuit of long-term competitive success.

To begin with our conclusion, we have observed three categories of behavioral change by top-performing companies:

  • Positioning: Changing from differentiated to low cost, or vice versa. This type of change is pursued relatively frequently, but typically with disastrous outcomes.
  • Markets: Changing or expanding markets served by moving into one or more of new products, new geographic regions or new segments.
  • Competencies: Changing or expanding core competencies, most often  by reinventing processes that had been critical to the success of a given Position.

These three categories are neither mutually exclusive (companies can change along more than one dimension) nor collectively exhaustive (there are other ways to think about change). Rather, they are empirically derived from our study of the patterns of change exhibited by superior long-term performers.

Changes in Positioning, whether or not they imply changes in Markets or Competencies, typically fail. When they work they take the form of movements “upmarket” to a differentiated position, rather than “down market” to a low-cost position—again, regardless of the level of change in Markets or Competencies required. In contrast, changes in Markets or Competencies typically succeed,  regardless of the degree of change required. Changes in Markets tend to be more frequent, however, perhaps because they require less fundamental change: It’s easier to sell what you’re selling now to someone else than it is to reinvent how you do something core to your existing Positioning.

Unearthing these findings has been a two-stage process. First, we needed to identify companies with superior long-term performance (see inset below). To that end, we assess a company’s performance annually, as measured by return on assets (ROA), compared to all publicly traded companies. Companies that finish in the top 10 percent (that is, the 9th decile) often enough that there is a less than 10 percent chance they achieved that result by chance alone are called “Miracle Workers.”

Second, within the Miracle Worker categorization we looked at three trajectories of performance: those that “lost it”—that is, had a strong string of 9s followed by a meaningful string of 8s or less; those that “found it”—the mirror image of “lost it;” and those that appear to have “kept it”—that is, their string of 9s appears to continue to this day.

It is by comparing the responses of these three categories of Miracle Workers to competitive and environmental change that we observed that Positioning is the “core value” companies should preserve—the “true self”—while Markets and Competencies are the levers of change associated with long-run success.

Identifying superior performers

Positioning

There are, at the most fundamental level, two generic positions available in any market: cost leadership and product differentiation.1 Either of these positions can be a foundation for superior profitability. With this categorization scheme in mind, consider now the fates of two Miracle Workers in the “lost it” category: Thomas & Betts Corporation (T&B) and Maytag Corporation (Maytag). Each  of these enjoyed sufficient (for the purpose of our analysis) success from the  mid-1960s to the mid-1980s thanks to their success as differentiators, yet endured subsequent long runs of less impressive returns as a result of attempting to become cost leaders.

T&B manufactured electrical wiring products of the sort used in residential and commercial construction, while Maytag (which was acquired in 2006) made washing machines and dryers. Strategically the two firms were quite similar. T&B was consistently in the 9th decile for almost 20 years thanks to its innovative products across a wide range of categories—everything from cable ties to electrical junction boxes. Its commitment to innovation showed up in a patent portfolio about double its nearest competitor. Its commitment to customers showed up in a willingness to invest in differentiating seemingly commoditized and low-dollar products. The combined result was a material pricing premium across a wide range of products that showed up as a significant return on sales advantage.

Modest but profitable growth came entirely organically and included measured expansion into international markets where its differentiated strategy translated well: Europe, Canada, Japan and Australia. In contrast, other players in the industry undermined their positions with large acquisitions and premature moves into emerging markets.

Maytag, the appliance manufacturer, similarly owed its early success to a differentiation strategy. The company’s products were perceived to be of superior quality and durability, a perception that was bolstered by a long-term and highly effective advertising campaign built around “Ole Lonely,” the Maytag repairman who never gets a call thanks to the reliability of Maytag appliances. The company translated this brand into a strong pricing premium through significant support for its network of over 10,000 independent retailers. For example, Maytag covered the costs of shipping its products to its distributors, reducing its distributors’ expenses. As a result of this and other such initiatives, distributors were willing to encourage customers to purchase Maytag over the competition. The result was over 20 years of industry-leading performance.

T&B’s decline began coincident with the 1981 recession. There had not been any noticeable shift in the company’s strategy or tactics, so it seems reasonable to conclude that the drop in performance was caused by the general slowdown in economic activity.

In response, T&B embarked on a major change in Positioning. A series of large acquisitions made electronic components almost half of total revenue by 1991, while its historical electrical manufacturing activities were seen as old news. By itself, this would constitute merely a change in Markets, but the electronics business was characterized by standardized technologies that T&B could not differentiate (as it had in the electrical business) and a proliferation of foreign competitors with strong cost advantages. The result was that success demanded strong cost leadership, something T&B proved unable to establish. It wasn’t until a change of senior management in the early 2000s that T&B returned to its roots as a differentiator in electrical components—and saw its ROA begin to recover.

Relative change?  absolutely!

For Maytag, too, the 1981 recession seems to have been a watershed but for different reasons. Cost pressures pushed Maytag and the industry generally into a greater reliance on national retailers. The emergence of “big box” chains in the late 1980s accelerated this trend. Between 1985 and 1996 the number of independent distributors carrying Maytag products fell from over 10,000 to 650.

Unlike T&B, Maytag remained committed to the appliance industry, but like T&B, attempted to establish a new Position as a broad spectrum, cost-competitive appliance manufacturer. Buying Magic Chef in 1986, at the time a company half its size, moved Maytag into the “mass market” segment of household appliances.2 An even bigger deal followed in 1988 when Maytag almost doubled in size, further diversified its product portfolio and increased its geographic footprint by acquiring Hoover, the UK-based vacuum cleaner company, in 1988.3 Unfortunately, Maytag’s performance, both absolute and relative, eroded steadily, to the point that the company was acquired by a much larger and globalized  competitor.

In drawing this conclusion, it is important to note that we did not single out T&B and Maytag for study because their repositioning efforts were unsuccessful. Rather, we chose to study them initially simply because of their lifetime performance: They are bona fide Miracle Workers. Further analysis revealed that their Miracle Worker status had a particular profile: a streak of statistically significant high performance, followed by a statistically significant streak of lower  performance.

What we have discovered is that high performing companies with this “lost it” profile tend to have responded to adverse events by attempting to change their Positioning. Not every “lost it” company we studied responded this way, and not every repositioning attempt failed. But the grain of the wood is clear: A change in Position is a low-odds proposition.

Performance profile for true “Lost it” Miracle Workers

Markets and competencies

Miracle Workers that either “found it” or “kept it” often tend to have opted for dramatic change in Markets or Competencies, frequently in order to maintain their historical Positioning, typically as differentiators.

Take, for example, Heartland Express Incorporated, a truckload (TL) trucking transportation services provider. Heartland’s performance since going public in 1985 until 2007 was an essentially unbroken string of 9s: the dip in 1992 was due to a large acquisition, while the 8th decile ranking in 2005 is too isolated to warrant explanation.4 In absolute terms, however, the company has two distinct eras of performance; our statistical analysis identifies 1994 as the change point.

We have identified three defining elements of Heartland’s strategy. First, the company was historically focused on a relatively small geographic footprint and a small number of customers. Even within those constraints, Heartland remained highly selective with respect to the freight it carried, picking only the most  profitable loads.

Second, Heartland was very nearly unique in pursuing this approach because it had the discipline to accept the trade-offs it implied: By focusing in this way, Heartland had to live with much more volatile performance and lower levels of growth than other trucking companies.

Third, Heartland was able to maintain the service levels required to make this strategy work in part thanks to having broken a long-standing industry trade-off. Trucking firms that use owner/operator (o/o) drivers have perforce a smaller asset base than firms that employ their drivers and so must invest in trucks. Traditionally, however, o/o’s have been less reliable than employed drivers. As a result, the lower asset base associated with an o/o fleet typically comes at the price of lower levels of customer service, and hence lower prices. Heartland, however, enjoyed the lower asset base of an o/o fleet without the negative impact on service, and hence pricing, thanks to a richer and more comprehensive compensation package that included not only higher pay but also, among other benefits, full scholarships to university for the children of its drivers. By paying more it was able to maintain a stable and high-performing workforce even though the economic benefits did not accrue entirely to Heartland’s drivers.

During this initial period of higher absolute performance Heartland’s returns were steadily deteriorating. Shouldn’t that have signaled to the company’s leadership that remedial action was required? Based on Heartland’s response, the answer seems to be “yes … and no.” Heartland’s ROA in the 1980s was almost three times the industry average, a level that few efficient markets will long support. One quite reasonably could expect an erosion of profitability as new players entered the market in an attempt to get a piece of the action themselves or as customers vertically integrated in order to reduce their costs.

Changes in absolute performance, then, can be misleading: Declines might not signal that anything needs fixing, just as increases might not mean you’re  doing anything right. Instead, the key to long-term survival seems to lie in  knowing when material change is required in order to preserve one’s relative performance position.

This is a distinction Heartland seems to have been able to make. During  era 1, the company’s advantage from a differentiated strategy built in large part on an o/o fleet was gradually undermined due to increased competition. This shows up in a steadily declining ROA. By the middle of era 1, Heartland began increasing its percentage of employee drivers. However, this was only part of a transformation of the company’s competencies. Rather than resist the increased asset intensity implied by the shift to employee drivers, Heartland also invested heavily in maintaining a new and highly efficient trucking fleet. It went even further, building up and maintaining a much higher trailer-to-truck ratio than other carriers in order to ensure higher levels of service and preserve what it could of its historical pricing premium.

In order to keep these assets more nearly fully utilized, Heartland invested in growth and in 1994 doubled in size—and expanded its geographic footprint considerably—through the acquisition of Munson Transportation.5 At the same time, it did not let this growth compromise its historical discipline in selecting only the freight that was the most profitable, whatever the short-run impact on asset utilization might be.6 This metamorphosis put an end to the decline in performance and established a new, stable trajectory that defines era 2, which runs from 1994 to today.

It is worth underlining that, absent these changes, Heartland’s streak of exceptional performance would have ended long ago. Extrapolating the slope of performance degradation from era 1 into era 2 finds Heartland in the red by 2002, with an average ROA through 2010 fully 14.4 percentage points per year lower than what it actually achieved.

In short, Heartland had changed its Markets (by shifting to a larger geographic footprint and a more diverse customer base) and some of its Competencies (greater asset intensity and a new human resources model), while preserving others (freight selectivity). In so doing, it was able to maintain the service levels that defined its Positioning, which in turn supported a pricing premium that drove a return on sales advantage. The company’s absolute lead over its competition was noticeably slimmer in era 2 than in era 1, thanks largely to structural shifts in the industry itself. But to the extent that a sustained performance advantage is possible, Heartland seems to have captured it.

Performance profiles for a “foiund it” and “Kept it” Miracle Worker

Note:  Our model for assessing the streaks of high and low relative performance is probabilistic. At a 90 percent confidence level, Heartland’s streak of 9th decile performances ends in 2008, thanks to four 8s in six years. At a 99 percent confidence interval, however, the streak is still “on,” and these 8s are plausibly a statistically insignificant “blip.”  In contrast, for the “lost it” Miracle Workers, their streaks have ended to a near certainty:  Maytag has ceased to exist as an independent company and so no recovery is possible;T&B could once again deliver a string of 9s, but the string of lower-performing years is sufficiently long that all T&B can do now is begin a new streak, not re-establish a pre-existing one.

Less dramatic change can deliver equally significant outcomes. Consider Linear Technology Corporation, which became a public company in 1985. A designer and manufacturer of high-performance, highly customized analog microprocessors, its primary customer was the U.S. government, including the Department of Defense (DoD). As the provider of a differentiated product with only weak substitutes, Linear was well positioned to command a price premium. However, since the DoD was the only customer for those products, that pricing power had its limits, and Linear’s profitability, although admirable, was not nearly what it would be within a decade.

The key to Linear’s breakthrough was taking its show on the road and providing similarly highly differentiated products to a variety of new markets and geographic regions. By 2005 government work had fallen from nearly half of total sales to less than 3 percent, and overseas markets went from much less than half to well over 70 percent of total sales. This didn’t happen automatically: Linear had to continue to invest heavily in R&D in order to provide those markets what they needed, and the reduced reliance on defense work exposed the company to a sharp contraction in revenue in 2001. But Linear’s long-term commitment to its historical Position served it well.

What Heartland and Linear reveal in very different ways is the power of persistence, of sticking with a Position that a company understands well and can likely implement more effectively than one it must attempt to master on the fly. Where one might argue that Heartland had evidence that its strategy was successful and worth pursuing, surely the degradation in absolute ROA must have given pause: A far less precipitous fall provoked Maytag into a dramatic repositioning attempt. How was Heartland to know that the key to its success was Positioning and not its Market focus or particular unique Competencies? And Linear’s performance was hardly notable at first: Its upward trajectory is only obvious in hindsight. How was it to know that its Positioning was sound and that it would be able to transplant its Competencies to a broader array of Markets, both product and geographic, with such remarkable success?

All that live must die

The simple answer is that they couldn’t have, any more than T&B and Maytag could have known that their attempts to change Position were going to fail. The data—in the form of performance, competitive analysis, the attractiveness of new opportunities, and so on—are never conclusive. Every company that plies the turbulent waters of strategic change chooses a course that makes sense at the time. In short, it’s not readily apparent ex ante what distinguished successful from failed attempts at strategic change. Unfortunately, it’s rarely readily apparent.

Securing and keeping a competitive advantage is the result of myriad daily decisions, many of which resist meaningful codification beyond general principles. The quest for hard and fast rules is quixotic. The trick is therefore not to be “objective” but to have the “right bias,” and thankfully, the data do offer some guidance. Our case-based analysis suggests strongly that although each of our three types of strategic change—Position, Market, Competency—can succeed, changing Position brings with it the greatest risks, while changing Markets and Competencies are typically more successful paths to enduring performance. These observations, we hope, help managers see more clearly both the risks and rewards of the different types of strategic change available to them and to assess their options accordingly.

We must accept the fact that nothing lasts forever. The great companies we have identified will eventually run aground, even if they persist and change in all the right ways. It is nevertheless more than a vain hope that an understanding of what has led to the demise of once great companies and how others have achieved or sustained their success—so far—can give us some insight into what it takes for the rest of us to achieve a greater longevity and vigor. If we can heed Polonius and be true to ourselves we might at least defer meeting up with Yorick in  the boneyard. DR

Michael Raynor is a director in the Strategy & Operations practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP. He is  the co-author of The Innovator’s Solution and author of The Strategy Paradox and The Innovator’s Manifesto.

Mumtaz Ahmed is a principal in the Strategy & Operations practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Endnotes

1. Porter, Michael E. (1980).  Competitive Strategy.  The Free Press (New York);  Porter, Michael E. (1985).  Competitive Advantage.  The Free Press (New York).  For each of the two types of strategies Porter identifies there is a sub-category called “focus,” or the pursuit of a given position with the unique needs of a specific and sufficiently distinct segment of a particular market in mind.

2. Maytag also acquired G. S. Blodgett in 1997, which was subsequently sold in 2001 at a pretax loss of $60 million.

3. Hoover was sold in two tranches in 1993 and 1995 at a total pretax loss of $151 million.

4. The systematic drop in absolute performance between Heartland’s two eras left its average performance much closer to the cutoff for the 9th decile of performance. With much less of a cushion between its average and this cutoff level of performance, largely random year-on-year variations that in the past would have gone by unnoticed now push Heartland into the 8th decile and out of Miracle Worker territory.

5. This was followed up by two smaller acquisitions, of A&M Express and Great Coastal in 1997 and 2002, respectively, deals that increased the company’s size by a third.

6.  A trucking company with spare capacity can be sorely tempted to cut price to marginal cost in order to increase asset turnover. The downside in the long run is a decreased ability to charge higher prices when capacity is scarce.  Heartland seems rarely to have succumbed to this temptation: It often “fired” 20 percent or more of the customers that came along with each of its acquisitions in order to preserve its focus on business that did not materially drag down the average profitability of its book.

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http://rookiemag.com/2012/04/to-thine-own-self-be-true/

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Live Through This

To Thine Own Self Be True

Huh?

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In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, crotchety old Polonius tells his son, Laertes, “This above all: to thine own self be true”—and then, blah blah, something far less quotable. Since then, this advice has been dispensed approximately 5,684,765,876 times. You, as a young person, have probably heard it a lot, for you are young and growing. And it sounds good, suggesting, as it does, purity, righteousness, and a consistent personality.

But there’s one thing that kind of bugs me about this popular wisdom: I don’t get it. Or, to quote the contemplative Angela Chase, “People always say how you should be yourself, like your ‘self’ is this definite thing, like a toaster or something. Like you can know what it is, even.” Being yourself seems so simple and obvious, but, not to get all liberal-arts-college-student-who’s-just-discovered-philosophy, can you really know who that is?

Sure, you can know things about yourself. You know your beliefs and can predict most of your actions. Your thoughts and feelings are, to a great extent, your own. But your personality has not been completely the same since birth, and if you say otherwise, you’re lying. People change. It’s a time of SELF-DISCOVERY. Freshman friends can be enemies by senior year. Someone who once spent all of her weekends at home now parties those same nights. And people get weird about it. Somehow, changing at all can be interpreted as not being true to yourself.

When I started high school, I was very concerned with getting really good grades. But I took hard classes my freshman year, and my A+ streak didn’t last long. I flipped a shit when I got a C+ in Biology. Being a good student was so important to me, because I didn’t do much outside of school. Then I started writing, blogging, and taking art classes at nearby colleges. I thought these things were way more fun than killing myself studying. It wasn’t that I didn’t work hard, it’s just that I realized there was more to life than getting good grades. To my studious friends, I probably seemed like a slacker (i.e., “not myself”), when really it’s just that my priorities changed. (I think I ended up getting a B in Biology anyway.)

Part of the problem with a phrase like “be true to yourself” is that it really isn’t about you at all. It’s about the people around you. I think what people are really saying is, “Don’t change, because I like you the way you are right now.” It’s similar to the phrase “respect yourself,” which I hear as, “Please act in a way that allows me to respect you.” Sometimes as a friend you DO need to step in when you feel your friend is changing too much for the worse, as in their life might be in danger. Though many people’s criticisms against change are for their own convenience, not general concern for a person’s wellbeing. Like Angela said, “It just seems like you agree to have a certain personality or something. For no reason. Just to make things easier for everyone. But when you think about it…how do you know it’s even you?” Sometimes the self that people refer to belongs to the past. People will get concerned, or possibly angry, when you deviate from that former self. Remember how weirded out Sharon was when Angela dyed her hair and quit yearbook? Angela wasn’t wreaking havoc, she was just going through a transformation. But the main problem is that change is EXACTLY what you’re supposed to be doing! Not to mention that there really is no such thing as “yourself.” Part of being a teenager (or just being a human!) is that you’re constantly changing. Your personality is not this concrete thing that is locked in forever.

I get not wanting someone to change. I’ve felt that way, too, and I’ve judged people who have changed. I had a friend once who used to be unconcerned with being popular or getting people to like her. She just did her own thing. But then, one day, she decided that partying hard and drinking was cool. She browsed Facebook albums of kids who were going to keg parties and wanted to have that kind of fun. She thought her nerdy social scene was boring, so she changed it by seeking out parties and chances to make new, older friends. “Oh, she’s changed,” I heard people (including myself) say, and it was clear we thought she was somehow a poser for this. Did I think her behavior was strange? Yeah, totally. But at the end of the day, that’s her. She didn’t hurt anyone and thankfully was not abusing drugs. She just wanted a change of scene, and she found it. She’s not the same person now, and that’s OK.

Your identity as a teenager is supposed to change, whether it be year to year or hour to hour. Maybe you go through phases. Maybe you dye your hair blue and listen to punk music. In 10 years, you could still have blue hair—or you could be totally conventional. Changing is not committing to something forever, even if guidance counselors or parents or friends might have you believe otherwise. After all, who knows yourself better than you? ♦

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http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/above_all…to_thine_own_self_be_true

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“Above all…to thine own self be true”?

Australia’s Girl Guides have adopted the motto of a “wretched, rash intruding fool”.

 

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“This above all,” says the old counselor to his son, advising the lad before his departure for France to play the young aristocrat on tour, “to thine own self be true.” Maintain that truth, he says, and then it will follow, “as the night the day, / Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Shakespeare, alas, is so great a poet that his readers sometimes mistake deliberate banality for wisdom. This famous line is a case in point. It is uttered by Polonius, a shallow, prating, tedious old man, who is anything but straightforward in his behavior. He encourages his daughter Ophelia to play hard to get, to land the prince who loves her; he sends a servant to France to spy on his son; and he is slain while hiding behind the curtain in the Queen’s room in order to eavesdrop on her conversation with Hamlet. “Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell,” says Hamlet, “I took thee for thy better.”

Shakespeare is deeply suspicious of people who are true to themselves, and not to God or to their country: such, in his three parts of Henry VI, are the proud self-absorbed villains Suffolk and Richard of York, responsible for instigating the civil wars that embroil England during the fifteenth century. But this suspicion seems not to have entered the minds of the leaders of the Girl Guides of Australia, who have recently revised the oath the girls must take. From now on, instead of swearing loyalty to God, to the queen, and to Australia, each girl will swear, “I will be true to myself and to my beliefs.”

It’s easy enough to enjoy a hearty laugh at the stupidity of the change. Indeed, the oath is not an oath at all, but rather implies the repudiation of all oaths. To say, “I will be true to myself,” is equivalent to saying, “I will do just as I please,” nor does the addition of “my beliefs” provide any limit to the narcissism, since what is emphasized is not the objective truth of those beliefs, or their transcendent authority, but merely the fact that they happen to be mine. When they cease to please me, then, I am free to alter them, to “believe” something else, to “bend with the remover to remove.” When the wind turns, so does the weathervane.

Why attach any importance to something so petty? “Stupidity is always a vice,” writes Jacques Maritain, and if man is by nature a political animal, then this sort of institutionalized stupidity has implications for the polity. No doubt many of the founders of the United States were selfish in their personal lives; but the men who signed the Declaration of Independence took the irrevocable step beyond that selfishness, pledging all that they had and all that they were, even their “sacred honor,” for the welfare of their country. It was not devotion to himself that kept George Washington firm throughout the bitter winter at Valley Forge.

Man finds himself by giving himself away in devotion to what is objectively good and true and beautiful; the converse also is true, that he loses himself by narcissism. Witness the Greek myth of the boy, Narcissus, wasting away as he gazes upon his own image in the pool. It is impossible to lead a nation of narcissists, then, because there are no fully realized persons to lead. Narcissists do not endure the snow and the ice, with mere rags binding their bleeding feet. A narcissist may well sweat and slog for his own prestige, to be the center of an adoring crowd; but a hundred such, to the extent that they cling to their narcissism, will be like a hundred cats, unable to unite even for the common good.

I say that people who swear to do as they like cannot be led. I do not say that they cannot be imposed upon. They will not be free citizens. They may well be underlings in a tyranny. That is the case in Huxley’s Brave New World. In that novel, a vast system of eugenics, early and continual indoctrination, and totalitarian control rests upon the foundation of hedonism. The people, according to their grade of intelligence, which here replaces social rank and is quite inflexible, receive the “benefit” of consequence-free sexual liaisons and doses of soma, the drug that induces a vapid state of careless good feeling—rather like that produced by television, as Neil Postman pointed out.

People under the influence of soma cannot think, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t express their “beliefs.” Here we come to the crux of the matter. If we encourage people to turn away from what is objectively true and good, to cherish instead their beliefs, whatever those may happen to be, we are teaching them not to think at all. We can do so most effectively by adopting the means of the old Greek sophists. That is, we can, in our massive indoctrination chambers, teach young people to subject traditional beliefs, whether patriotic or cultural or religious, to criticism, usually quite superficial and smug, the better to dispense with them. This we will call “thinking,” but it should rather be called “unthinking,” the energetic avoidance of the issue of truth. Then, when the mental landscape is cleared of all the old organic incrustations—all of its genuine life—it hardly matters what the individual will build there in its stead. It won’t be much. It will be more or less what those who control the means of indoctrination say it will be—though “control” may be too strong a word to apply to people who are themselves the objects of the same indoctrination.

Thus we end up with that great fraud, the idol of “my beliefs,” little more than a mélange of television commercials, sublingual popular song lyrics, dopey schoolbooks, and social fads, hardly different from the “my beliefs” of the Girl Guide standing beside me.

I suppose that such a society can endure as long as the soma is in stock. For people on soma, the past is irrelevant and the future will take care of itself. That is so even when the favorite flavor of soma is that which combines narcissism with the tang of the supposition that what I like will be in concord with what “will make the world a better place,” the final bit of banality that the Australian girls will swear to.

But to take an oath is to be willing to reject all such comforts. A man who says to his bride, “With this ring I thee wed,” is binding himself to her and to her good, come what may. He does not say, “I swear to be true to myself”—for then he might as well take the ring out of his pocket and ceremoniously place it on his own finger. He does not say, “I swear to make our relationship better, according to my personal beliefs about what that will mean,” since that is but a more convoluted form of the expression of self-love. Instead he subjects all that he is and all that he has to someone else. The promise brings into being a time-transcending social reality. It is precisely insofar as the bride and groom swear an oath that binds them regardless of their feelings and of the waywardness of opinion that they make something really new in the world, something whose kind is nonetheless as old as man himself.

One final comment. It is bad to be ignorant, but someone who is ignorant of the courses of the planets can yet be wise in the ways of men. Stupidity is different. Stupidity, I believe, takes real work. Nature provides each of us with a certain measure of dullness and sluggishness of mind; it is only by means of persistence and, for some, hard study that one can deepen that dullness into stupidity. The leaders of the Girl Guides give us a fine example. They say they have striven to be “relevant,” just as the cultural lemmings of the last fifty years have striven to be relevant, whatever that is supposed to mean. So they took a fine old oath, one that just might jog one girl in a hundred from her sleepy self-satisfaction, and tossed it away, in favor of their new invention. They are too stupid to suspect the stupidity. That is well and good, since if we have to be peons, at least we can be peons that primp and preen. Lemmings, unite.

Anthony Esolen is Professor of English at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, and the author of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Childand Ironies of Faith. He has translated Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata and Dante’s The Divine Comedy.

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3 Responses to To thine own self be true — Shakespeare’s Polonius in Hamlet

  1. Pingback: Some might find it strange that Joss Whedon’s first movie since “The Avengers” – his 2012 megahit about a team of Marvel Comics superheroes – is an independent adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” B

  2. Pingback: Greatest personal relations therapist Shakespeare: In his last public lecture, T.S. Eliot remarked that “So great is Shakespeare…that a lifetime is hardly enough for growing up to appreciate him,” and in one of his last essays he declare

  3. Pingback: Greatest personal relations therapist Shakespeare: In his last public lecture, T.S. Eliot remarked that “So great is Shakespeare…that a lifetime is hardly enough for growing up to appreciate him,” and in one of his last essays he declare

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