Archives for posts with tag: First People

My second book, The People Zoo, is now available on Amazon as both a paperback and an ebook. Like my first one, this book is full of short, often humorous tales about Life and Business. It features stories back to my time in public accounting and through my work career at Donn Corporation, USG Corporation and IMC Global. And although I was a Chief Financial Officer for much of my career, in various stories I am a junior or senior auditor, a business President or a member of a charity Board.

A new aspect of this book is that I have incorporated some of the wisdom and values of our Native American First People. Their words and beliefs help introduce or close some chapters and add a unique viewpoint to other stories along the way. For example many First People believed we each have two wolves-one good and one evil-fighting inside of us. Which one survives? The one you feed!

The book’s major topics include:

-Mentoring both to me at critical times and others who I mentored including unlikely but successful relationships

-Dealing with Larger than Life Leaders whom I have encountered including Donn’s founder and USG’s Chairman

-Facing both personal and career crises along the way that ranged from liquidating my father’s business, to growing up after my divorce to being in NYC on 9/11.

-Working through major transitions and exits like Senior Executives good and bad exits to my own early retirement

-And using Circles and Bridges to both bring people together and to help create a philosophy for your work and personal life

-As in my first book, each chapter ends with Lessons you should Learn.

So take a look and hopefully you will enjoy, The People Zoo!


The actor, Jeremy Rennar, has been in very diverse films. From the award winning, Hurt Locker, to my Grandson’s favorite Avengers as superhero Hawkeye, to the story of a serial killer from my wife’s hometown of Akron, Dahmer. But he is also a songwriter and singer. A recent song is called Signs, and in part says, “Oh sky, won’t you give me a sign. Tell me will the world ever be mine. I need something to believe in.” Signs.

A songwriter and singer from an earlier era, Neil Diamond, had a less known hit also called Signs that said, “Signs that burn like shooting stars …they reach out to us in their mystic language. Some are born who would defy them …others still who never read them.” Signs.

Our native American, First People, also spoke (and probably sang as well) about Signs. One of their core values was that you should “See Connections as All Things are Related.” To them this all started with nature and the world around them which could help you survive or could kill you if you did not read nature’s signs correctly or failed to understand and respect its power. Elders taught children to observe and especially to respect their world.

So to me, connections and signs seem like a very basic and critical concept to people’s survival and success,  both in our ancient past and today. But merely acknowledging these the connections in your world is different from seeing them and using them.

The song by Jeremy Rennar seems to be hoping the world will clearly deliver a sign which rarely happens. In Neil Diamond’s song, it focuses on some people not reading or not needing the signs, which is a major loss. The First People, as often the case, seem to get it right. Nature and the world and even other people are constantly sending us signs. What we need to do, to be happy and successful, is to find the connections between all those diverse signals.

In both your personal and work life, it can be most beneficial to strive to become a master in the world of signs and connections.


Dealing with Larger than Life People

This is the title for one of the Chapters in my forthcoming second book, The People Zoo. I have had both the pleasure and, at times, the frustration of dealing with some fascinating people. These ranged from my private company Donn Corporation’s founder and owner Don Brown, to my boss and mentor Gene Connolly in the public firm of USG Corporation. Some of the stories in this Chapter will illustrate what I learned from these people.  Some lessons were good and others, not so good, but all were unforgettable and valuable to my development.

But larger than life people have been around a long time. So, I start this Chapter with a link to those who came before us; the First People of our nation.

The First Peoples’ Cultural Heroes

Professor Larry Zimmerman is an author, anthropologist and a leading expert on Native Americans. He writes about how, after the Great Spirit created the world, other powerful figures described as cultural heroes gave people the objects and skills needed for survival. They transformed their surroundings and themselves, sometimes in human or animal form. The Raven gave light; the Spider fire.

These types of myths or folklore can be found in every culture over time, not just our First People. From Aesop’s Fables to Beowulf there is a long history of heroes.

In our time, Joseph Campbell explored heroes and myths in several fine books.

These cultural heroes of our First People were thought of as being above normal humans and often having a supernatural ability. My grandson Connor, who knows all the Marvel and DC Comics heroes, would have appreciated these century old, first edition ones! And just like some of our modern superheroes, the ancient ones often had flaws.  In fact, a First People hero like the Raven, might exhibit a dark side and use deception or evil to get things done! This caused them to be more like the rascal Tricksters who usually acted solely for their own benefit. But this dual nature of good and evil also made the heroes more relatable to their human First People counterparts. After all, even Batman crossed the line when confronted with Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight!

So, our First People’s heroes were not always perfect either but were always really interesting.

And, hopefully, you will find the larger than life characters in my new book interesting and entertaining as well!

On my Apple calendar, I was told that October 8 is Indigenous People Day. Although the day is still called Columbus Day, the new term is meant to honor those people who were in North America long before our European ancestors.

In fact, historians now believe that there were several million native people here which were part of up to a thousand separate nations that ranged from Alaska, throughout the U.S. and into Mexico.

I became interested in this at a series of museums we visited in Canada and Alaska. I came to both appreciate and admire these First People. So, as I tend to do, I have now read parts of five books on the subject.

These nations or tribes often had diverse lifestyles based on the land area they occupied and their unique history and cultures. Yet all these native people, regardless of where they lived, had similar stories about the world’s creation, natural phenomena and good versus evil. Some very geographically separated groups, like our Southwest Apaches, even have a similar language to the Alaskan Athabaskan tribes.

And all these Indigenous or First People had issues establishing and transferring leadership and maintaining and spreading their culture. Just like our organizations do today. Only this was way before computers and even the written word.

Because of this, I am using stories about the First Peoples to help me illustrate points in my second book. It only seems fitting to reach back over the past millennia to seek guidance and explanations from those who came before us.

So here is a sample of how I will tie this all in. This provides a lead story in the chapter on Mentoring.

Honor Your Elders who Show the Way

In the far north of Alaska is the Inupiat nation. In the winter, there is no light for 67 days. In the summer, there are 84 days of only daylight. If you lived to become an Elder, you earned it and thus should be honored. The First People all over North America shared that same belief. The young were trained or mentored by the old. And the wisest elders were usually elected the leaders of their tribes.

The Iroquois Council, at its peak, consisted of six tribes, that working together, controlled our entire Northeast and part of the Midwest. The Council had devised a unique set of rules to govern both their overall territory and their individual tribes. Their system of government was studied by Benjamin Franklin and became the general framework for our emerging nation. And, although the Council Elders were all men, they were chosen, and could be removed, by the women of each tribe.

Fascinating and true. But I could not help but notice that old Ben did not include the part about the women in each tribe have the final power!

So think about our nation’s real First People as we honor them with a long overdue holiday in their name.