What's in a dream?

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gambling.jpgToday, I was reading Questions of Character, a book by a Harvard Business School professor, Dr. Badaracco, who uses literature to teach leadership. It's not the sort of thing I usually read because I HATED English class and everything like it in school. That's why I grew up to be a statistician.

This book is different, though. He talks about the lessons to be learned from literature. One example he uses is "Death of a Salesman".  Badaracco says that one of the problems Willy Loman (the salesman) has is that his dreams are not really his. They are the "mass-produced dreams" of being rich, famous and popular.

Even though Willy has some talents, like construction, he doesn't follow those, instead he becomes a salesman for a large company. Here is another place where Dr. Badaracco says it isn't Willy's dream - he doesn't enjoy what he is doing for a living, not any part of it, and so he is continually looking for shortcuts.

The third point the book makes is that Willy is not honest, not with himself, his family or friends. He spins stories about how successful he is, when they are barely paying the bills, and he has this vision that his big break - his sons' big break - is just around the corner, even when he is old and laid off from his job and his sons are middle-aged. It seems more important to Willy how people feel about him than how he feels about himself.

The saddest part, Badaracco says, is that Willy has accomplishments and talents - he is a good builder, his wife sincerely loves him, he has managed to pay off the mortgage on his house, own a car and provide for his family all through the Great Depression, when those things were far from easy to do.

I was trying to think how this applies to the people we work with regularly on the reservations. I was thinking about people just like Willy who have enough food for their children, a nice home and live in a beautiful place (I may hate the cold weather, but no one can deny walking through the woods, or watching the northern lights, or sitting out by the lake, etc. that the reservations where we work are some really nice places to be). Yet, I see some of those people who are pretty unethical - and for what, so they can buy their kids some expensive shoes, or buy a new truck or pick up some new furniture at Wal-Mart. I confess that I just don't get it.

Erich talks a lot about self-esteem being the root of a lot of problems on the reservation and probably elsewhere. This might be where it all fits together, being able to recognize the things that you do well, and that those are the key to your success, not what car you drive. Being a good parent means the values and knowledge you taught your children, not the brand of shoes you bought them. It's like one of my daughter's favorite sayings,

"You don't own your things. Your things own you."

The other place I think this fits in with the Tribal Leader Institute ethics is self-honesty. If you have limitations that keep you from achieving your dream, it could be, that as Badaracco says, you have the wrong dream. I think a lot of the Joe the Tribal Worker stories have to do with people who are unwilling to recognize that what they want out of life is out of whack with the amount of work they are willing to do to get it or their own abilities. If you find yourself in that situation, you need to either change your dreams or change the amount of work you're willing to do.

Why should you? Well, on the one hand, you end up like Willy and leave behind a family bitter, heart-broken and living with your unfulfilled dreams. On the other hand, you end up an unethical Joe the Tribal Worker who gets what you need through lying, manipulation and outright stealing. Now that I am getting older, I can see what happens to those Joes in the long run, and I can tell you, it isn't pretty.

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