Category Archives: Distinctions

Distinctions are ideas the help us understand our world or operating environment, different than we may have done before

Integrity Defined

When I was an F-15 maintenance group commander, a St Louis Air National Guard F-15 crashed because one of it’s four fuselage longerons broke, disintegrating the fuselage and ultimately sending the pilot on a wild ride without an aircraft (he survived with a broken arm).    I believe we grounded our jets for 57 days, using various techniques to evaluate the integrity of these longerons.  What we found was shocking.   Many of the longerons installed in F-15s were not fully in specification (some out of tolerance by 40%) based on 1970s milling issues.   Some of our jets were permanently grounded.

Integrity First – Is the first Core Value of the  US Air Force,  codified in 1997 by General Ronald Folgeman & Secretary Shiela Widnall.     I have contemplated and studied it both in and out of the Air Force, and frankly,  surprisingly, I think they got it right AND wrong at the same time.    Integrity is first but not as defined in the little blue book (AF Core Value Book).

I believe that Integrity is the most important distinction in leadership.  Integrity is the universal truth that defines effective activity from the misaligned.   Integrity is… the coop de grace, it is the holy grail.   It is the “BE” all..

However, it is not “having integrity” that makes us human, it is “not having integrity” that makes us human.   A play on words that is the struggle of most organizations and activities involving us people … or teenagers (sorry, editorial inclusion as I have four teenagers).

OK – a bit of a prelude to many foreseen blog discussions around integrity.   But this blog entry is a stage-setter.  It is the foundation of my leadership syllabus and defines, for me, why I am here (i.e. my integrity).   I request your feedback as you contemplate integrity in your life.

Definitions include complementary ideas like being honest, being of great character, doing the “right” thing, aligning our actions with our words, or honoring our agreements and commitments.    I am not saying that integrity is or is not these things, but integrity is not moral or ethical, it just is…

I believe that integrity means acting in alignment with ones highest purpose of BEing.

It is not that honesty and integrity aren’t similar.   Telling the truth has an ethical implication regarding our words.     Integrity has an fundamental implication that we are living our truth with our actions. Here is a philosophical question, if the “Devil” is the great deceiver, is he is in or out of integrity when deceiving and spreading lies?   My definition would say he is integrity and expecting him to be honest would be foolhardy.

That is the bane of leadership.   How do I keep my organization (or my person) acting in alignment with its integrity/purpose?    That leads to the challenge of leadership.   Who am I (what is my purpose) and What am I currently doing?   (where am I misaligned with my purpose).   When we understand those two positions, then we can act in leadership to realign them.   Thus leadership is ultimately realigning our activities with that which in which we were created.  (I’m talking an organization, but there is certainly a spiritual play here).

To close, imagine that longeron which was designed to maintain loads up to 12 G-forces before breaking.     But if it was actually built it 40% thinner than designed, it is out of integrity with the expected 12-G loads.   Luckily, other factors in the F-15 design limited it to a 9-G aircraft.    And for that reason, the longeron hung in there for as much as 20 years, bending and cracking and fighting to do its job until it couldn’t take it any more.   And once it broke, the accompanying forces destroyed this aircraft and grounded many more.

Where in our lives do we live outside of our integrity.   Bon-bons on the couch?  How about escapism, addictions, pornography, etc.?   Are there stresses and cracks growing in your life or that of your organization that are going to bring it all down?

Like a longeron, living in integrity, is THE critical component to ensure the effectiveness of our well-being and the organizations we serve.

Live in your Truth!



Simple Beyond Complex

This is a blog post that has been ruminating within me for years, I remember first discovering or accepting the distinction while working at the Pentagon 16 years ago, and have been contemplating it since.   I would love to have your feedback or thoughts about it.

It starts with the idea, or the essence of an idea, that simplicity is profound.  Essentially, in Science, Mathematics, Philosophy, Religion or any Human related endeavor, there exists a simple truth that ultimately encases or governs how things work within it. For example, physicists have discovered four forces that govern the Universe and they continue to pursue (and believe) that these four forces will eventually be defined by a single force.    Thus, the complexity of the universe ultimately will be described in one single and expectantly simple equation.

Taking this to a more philosophic bend, I have discovered that I am much more content and fulfilled when I eliminate most of the complexity (BS), anxiety, and distraction in my life by returning to a place of simplicity.   I am aggressively working to de-clutter, downsize, and simplify every aspect of my life (spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically).    Contemplating this appeal is the essence of this blog topic.

Christ says “anyone who does not receive the Kingdom of heaven like a child will never enter it.”

Imagine our children (not my teenagers today), but an innocent baby or toddler.   When you watch them, they are entirely caught in the moment and are present to exactly what they need or want that second. They see a ball, they grab it, play with it, chew it, throw it. They are happy and content in their very simple lives (as their needs are provided for).   They aren’t worried about the future, or stressed about past failings, they are entirely present to themselves and the immediate world around them. Frankly, life is simple, and Christ asks us to see the world like this child.

However, this simplicity is complicit with naivety and lacks appreciation or awareness of the complex challenges they are about to face as the world comes upon them. When are they going to get their next bottle, skateboard, bike, or car. How can they get what they want, and what everyone else seems to have?

Complexity enters their life. They start to take on worry, stress, anxiety and WANT. Why am I not getting enough affection? Why do they have all those great things? Why am I not as fast, strong or as powerful as him? I keep making mistakes, why am I not good enough? Essentially, my complex life puts me into the paradox of unworthiness.

This difficult transformation from from childhood to adulthood as the world goes from simple to complex creates the stories and messages that govern our lives. We create complex responses to survive and often pursue having money, recognition, achievement, and affection to overcome them. We essentially become engulfed in “the cares of this world”.

I believe, as many of us approach mid-life, we see that the drivers of our activity are irrational and fleeting. This crisis forces the recognition that life’s complexities are choking out our personal fulfillment and God-given purpose. In that place, many of us begin another painful transformation. One that may cause complete upheaval of our present circumstance. We may make job changes, lifestyle reorientation, divorce, find religion, etc. This potential transformation requires a deep reflective and often painful transition away from complexity. It is our “hero’s journey.”

Unfortunately, for many, we try to recreate and reorganize these complexities. Fill the holes and pain from one story to another.    Others aren’t willing to go as deep and dark as necessary to shed the messages, stories, or deal with open wounds that aren’t serving us anymore. We aren’t willing to peak behind the curtain and see the ridiculous levers that the wizard (let’s say ego) is using to manipulate our lives.

However, this crisis can also provide us the awareness that can return us to the simplicity and humility that Christ requests of us. By shedding our stories, our anxieties, our fleeting pursuits, we can move to one that is alive in the present; or alive in God’s presence.

I am convinced,  that this simplicity only can be found after a dangerous transition through and appreciation of the complexity of our world.    I am personally navigating this “hero’s journey” and (like the physicists)  am unifying the forces that guide my life into a few simple truths.  The belief that my happiness, purpose, and reason for being exists right before me, and can be seen in living a life of truth and simplicity.

Blessings – Pierre


The Four Agreements – By Don Miguel Ruiz

Occasionally, as part of my syllabus development and blog creation, I plan on  reviewing leadership oriented books, this one leaning toward personal leadership.

The first book is The Four Agreements – by Don Miguel Ruiz.

This was the first book I was asked to read by a leadership coach at Northwestern.  This book has remarkable traction in the spiritual and personal development communities.   Some religious communities have expressed concern because of Ruiz’ connection with “Toltec Wisdom” and “New Age” bent.    However, it is obvious from this, and his other books, that Ruiz has a deep catholic heritage which sets context and depth to the book.

Finally, I love the book because … it reminds me that “it is all about me.”   Meaning, most of the junk that hits me in my life is caused by my own doing.   I unconsciously manipulate the stories that are fragments of my true life.   I make people wrong based on the shadows that plague me.    I judge and make assumptions about what people say or do strictly based on my on personal experience.    Can you imagine a life where you see what is happening for its truth, and not the story we create or impose upon it.

Here is a summary of the Four Agreements:

Be Impeccable with Your Word

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Impeccable means “without sin” and a sin is something you do or believe that goes against yourself.   It means not speaking against yourself, to yourself or to others.    It means not rejecting yourself. To be impeccable means to take responsibility for yourself, to not participate in “the blame game.”

 Regarding the word, the rules of “action-reaction” apply.   What you put out energetically will return to you.   Proper use of the word creates proper use of energy, putting out love and gratitude perpetuates the same. The converse is also true. 

Impeccability starts at home. Be impeccable with yourself and that will reflect in your life and your relationships with others. This agreement can help change thousands of other agreements, especially ones that create fear instead of love.

Don’t Take Anything Personally

Nothing others do is because of you.  What others say and do is a projection of their own issues.   When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

We take things personally when we agree with what others have said.   If we didn’t agree, the things that others say would not affect us emotionally.   If we did not care about what others think about us, their words or behavior could not affect us.

   Even if someone yells at you, gossips about you, harms you or yours, it still is not about you! Their actions and words are based on what they believe in their personal dream. 

  Our personal “Book of Law” and belief system makes us feel safe.   When people have beliefs that are different from our own, we get scared, defend ourselves, and impose our point of view on others.    If someone gets angry with us it is because our belief system is challenging their belief system and they get scared.    They need to defend their point of view.   Why become angry, create conflict, and expend energy arguing when you are aware of this?

Don’t Make Assumptions

Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

When we make assumptions it is because we believe we know what others are thinking and feeling. We believe we know their point of view, their dream. We forget that our beliefs are just our point of view based on our belief system and personal experiences and have nothing to do with what others think and feel. 

We make the assumption that everybody judges us, abuses us, victimizes us, and blames us the way we do ourselves. As a result we reject ourselves before others have the chance to reject us. When we think this way, it becomes difficult to be ourselves in the world.

Take action and be clear to others about what you want or do not want; do not gossip and make assumptions about things others tell you. Respect other points of view and avoid arguing just to be right. Respect yourself and be honest with yourself. Stop expecting the people around you to know what is in your head.

Always Do Your Best

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

Doing your best means enjoying the action without expecting a reward. The pleasure comes from doing what you like in life and having fun, not from how much you get paid. Enjoy the path traveled and the destination will take care of itself.

Living in the moment and releasing the past helps us to do the best we can in the moment. It allows us to be fully alive right now, enjoying what is present, not worrying about the past or the future.

Have patience with yourself. Take action. Practice forgiveness. If you do your best always, transformation will happen as a matter of course.