Six Sigma and more:
"...and the pursuit of happiness"
resonates with David Schwinn
As you know, I think that Six Sigma is a
powerful way to reduce costs, improve
quality, and, therefore, increase sales and profitability. I also think there is much more to improving our organizations and communities. As I started writing this month’s column, I thought it was about the “more.” That may be so, but it may also be simply about illuminating or improving your existing Six Sigma effort. You be the judge.
Last week, my wife Carole and I attended the first reunion of the Fetzer Institute’s Fellows and Scholars Program, a truly remarkable gathering. One of the gifts of that weekend was “Two Dreams of America” (Kalamazoo: Fetzer Institute, 2003), an essay by Jacob Needleman, a professor of philosophy at San Francisco State University. The essay is part of a series of excellent essays on Deepening the American Dream sponsored by the Fetzer Institute. The two dreams Jacob describes are, first, “to become ‘smart', develop new material technologies, to make the trains run on time.” Second, he describes a dream of “freedom of speech, of inquiry, of thought, of access to knowledge to allow the search for inner truth.” He argues that this second dream was particularly important to our Founding Fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson. Let’s review his argument.
Jacob begins with his recollection of conversations with two immigrants to remind us of the profound nature of being in a country with a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” There the dream begins. It continues with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. According to my dictionary, unalienable means that these rights are incapable of being sold or transferred. In this essay, Jacob focuses in on liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
His description of liberty includes all the freedoms described above and adds the freedoms described to him by his immigrant friend from Afghanistan. His friend held up the freedoms of the mind and of imagination that lead to “the possibility of becoming fully human.” Those freedoms could lead in many directions, but Needleman takes us to the third right, the pursuit of happiness.
He uses his knowledge of Jefferson and the other founders of America and their knowledge of the philosophy of Enlightenment and the other wisdom traditions of the world to state:
“...that the vision of the founders may be seen as rooted in an astonishing and timeless truth about man: namely that the essence of man is happiness and love and that this essence is meant to serve the highest reality (call it ‘God’) by serving one’s neighbor. In a word, human happiness is literally—chemically—inseparable from caring for others.”
So, according to Needleman, two of the three unalienable rights affirmed for us in the Declaration of Independence may, at their essence, be our freedom to serve our neighbor.
Jacob’s message resonated with me. Maybe it does with you. I remember growing up with parents who had a positive, loving attitude about life. I grew up in a relatively poor neighborhood with youngsters whose points of view seemed negative, with low expectations of the future. They seemed to continually complain about how their world was treating them. It was easy to get caught up in that culture. Sometime during my adolescence, I consciously realized that if I focused on serving others with no expectations of reciprocal action, I became happy. If I expected specific, unstated things or behaviors from others, I was disappointed and unhappy. The effort to freely give what I could to others consistently brought me true happiness. Understand that, for me, those efforts are moments, some short, some longer. Frequently forgotten, they represent an important intention for my life.
So here’s my suggestion. Use your Six Sigma effort to find your freedom and your happiness by serving others. If you already are, celebrate and illuminate it. If you’re not, fix it. If you can’t, find someplace where you can. Life is too short.
Copyright 2005 PQ Systems.
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