Roadmap to Inspiration in Stressful Times: Finding our “Better Angels”

Posted November 27th, 2022 in better angels by Dr. William (Bill} DeMarco

Roadmap to  Inspiration in Stressful Times:

Finding our “Better Angels”


Dr. William (Bill) DeMarco, Ph.D.

All generations have encountered stress.  While stress most often feels unique to each of us, it is really a recurring element of the human condition that everyone experiences.  Beyond the normal stressors of personal and family life, we are confronted with the additional stress of living in particularly challenging times.  While I do not know whether this is significantly different from what other generations have  encountered, I do know it is our current reality.  What frequently feels like a constant bombardment of stress cries out for relief.  Finding “better angels” may offer some as needed.  This article is a roadmap on how to get there.  

Let’s start off with a better understanding of culture, the modern reality we all live within.  As  I have frequently written in these pages, CULTURE is a living thing…being  the sum total of the history , values, and folklore of a society at a given point in time.  This is true for both societies and businesses of all sorts.  Our current cultural “point in time” is particularly stressful, given the constant presence of “in your face” media.  It impacts how we live, what we value, how we relate to one another, who our role models are, how and what we celebrate, what and how we eat…pray…and yes, even love.

DeMarco Culture Model

Copyright, Dr. William DeMarco, 1993

I would not be surprised in the least if it comes to you that we live in precarious times, with the constant bombardment of media of all sorts.  Institutions that have traditionally been bulwarks against dramatic and even unsettling change, have lost much of their lustre.  Current history  is creating a new set of values, reflected in the folklore of modern times, all becoming part of the culture going forward.  Now that becomes a scary thought when we think of their impact on the future generations we are spawning.

The reality is that fear of change has always been thus!  The Stoics of ancient Roman times wrote frequently about it. For example, the second century Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius  (image) wrote in his famous book of “Meditations”:

     ”Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature’s delight”

Not being able to see the future, we  naturally fear it; for we cannot control what we do not see.

Another example is found in the Four Gospels of the New (Christian) Testament of the Bible.  All four evangelists (Gospel authors) wrote about how the de facto ruling class of Pharisees feared the loss of power/status due to the teachings of Jesus Christ (image).  Even the first century Jewish historian, Josephus, wrote about this.  Jesus preached about another kingdom in ways that questioned elements of Pharisaic teachings about the next life;  he even challenged the status quo  by preaching that the greatest commandment of all is to “Love God with all your heart”….”And Love your neighbour as yourself”…for “the poor will always be with us”…so “feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick,  shelter the homeless”, rather than preach about the preeminence of sacrificial offerings.  In today’s parlance, this puts socialist principles above free enterprise.  Today’s hot debates on these topics are not really that new after all!

Christ also stated many times that He was the Son of God.  Talk about a radical departure from the values of the day, even though the Jewish people had been waiting for their Messiah (a perceived temporal leader) for centuries. As the Pharisees saw it, how could  a carpenter’s son from lowly Nazareth challenge their interpretations of scripture and the divine; so they contrived to have him executed by the legal protocols of the day.

Here we have another example of fear of change and loss of  control.  Human beings have never handled change well, in spite of the fact that like death, it is a certainty that both change and death are in all of our futures. In spite of all of today’s doom and gloom – sorry to be so maudlin here- centuries of human history can also provide us with solace and comfort.

Herodotus (image), frequently referred to as the “Father of History”, wrote thousands of years before Christ that history is less about reality (i.e.facts) than about relevance.  His writings tried to inspire all future generations to think less about the “who”…the “what”…the “when”, but more about the relevance of human realities

What comes to my mind immediately is what life was like for my grandparents and great grandparents, immigrants all living through the relevance of their 1890’s realities; realities which happen to be quite similar to those of modern times.  Here is a partial list of their stressors:  natural disasters, prejudice, tribalism,  greed, entitlement of class structure, ineffective political systems,  corrupt financiers, faulty institutions, terrorism, and a sense of helplessness. Quite a list; similar to what most of today’s refugees face.

Most importantly, though, for all this , they believed in the existence of “better angels”.  Family stories show this.  They saw their lives as better than in the old world because they had dreams that they believed could become a reality: financial opportunity, helping hands and big hearts of family, caring friends and agencies, labor unions, as well as inspiring and helpful social & religious institutions, and education for next generations, just to name a few.

Their experiences were no worse than those of so many other “societies” or  sub-cultures, frequently referred to as hyphenates   (i.e. -Canadians,  -Americans,  -Asians,  -Europeans, etc.). Of course, tribalism was present in all the miseries of these souls, frequently showing up in their attitudes towards others, but the fortunate ones focused  far  more on the relevance to their lives at a far more granular level.  Sure, tribalism with its ‘blame game”was present, but food, shelter, housing, financial security, and how to relate to one another proved to be far more important in their daily lives.

It was as if they were channelling Seneca, the great first century stoic, when he wrote:

“Associate with people who are likely to improve you

When fear of change and genuine disgust with the ethical bankruptcy of modern times gets you down, focus on the “better angels” of  more recent times who inspire you.  Start off with family stories from current and past generations.  It is important to celebrate the moments of their lives that inspire you; these always have special significance.

In addition,  many of my clients/adult students have been inspired by the lives of the following:  Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Benazir Bhutto, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton (image), Tommy Douglas,  Winston Churchill, Damien of Molokai, Terry Fox, Viktor Frankl, Frederick Douglass, Anwar Sadat, Maximillan Kolbe, Dr. Tom Dooley, Jesus Christ, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Albert Schweitzer, Sacajawea, Thomas Merton, Jimmy Carter, Mahatma Ghandi, George Marshall, Lech Walesa, Anthony deMello, etc.  Take a look at their (click) biographies , podcasts, or anything else you can get your hands on. 

[For more inspirational reading suggestions , please click here.]

Here is another person to think about; he was a man who made a difference in his many leadership  “moments of truth”. Thomas “Tip” O’Neil, the  Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1980’s, was a physical and political giant of a man.  He built meaningful political coalitions in a difficult political environment.  He was a man of the people,  as he expressed in his oft-repeated prescient statement:

                  This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is tip-oneil.jpg     “All politics is local”    

Tip O’Neil was genuinely inspiring when it counted most.  His “all politics is local” became a clarion call for people of diverse political persuasions at the time. When looking for “better angels” to inspire you, don’t think of political party or persuasion. Think of accomplishments in their “moments of truth”.

A final suggestion is to never fall into the trap of thinking that “better angels” are only perfect human beings. As humans, we can be judgemental some times.  Here’s a suggestion on how to not fall into that trap.  Think of how we celebrate Victoria Cross, Medal of Honor, and Croix de Guerre recipients; we celebrate  their specific accomplishment(s), not the perfection of their lives.  

If you are mostly a visual person, some  have found the following helpful. Take a look/rewatch the movie  “Dances with Wolves”; think about what it says to you about your assumptions/values before, during and after your viewing.  Here is a partial list of other (click) videos that may inspire you. 

What each of us needs today to get past the craziness of modern times is to find our own “better angels”.   Each culture has countless sources of inspiration.  They are around us everywhere. Immerse yourself in the sound of silence, AND

Search…Find…Be Inspired

Find Your Inspiration.

Meaningful Reflections!

Dr. Bill DeMarco


High Performing Business Culture & Values

Posted November 27th, 2022 in Business Culture, Culture & Leadership by Dr. William (Bill} DeMarco

While preparing for a client meeting many years ago, I came across the value proposition of a consulting company my client had worked with in the past. Their value proposition had a lot to do with “optimizing the performance of human capital“.   That was the first time I had heard this term.  My first instinct was to cringe a bit at the notion of treating people like capital, but, on reflection and in the spirit of full disclosure, I needed to plead guilty of using this concept in the past.  One of the ground rules of sound communications is to use language that the listener can relate to.  In the world of business, the noun “capital” is truly capital as the Brits would say!

Its use has the ability to capture the attention of business leaders so we can get to the “good stuff”.  In this case, the good stuff is to identify what’s required to bring about a high  performing business culture.  At my client meeting, we discussed about how, in my international research over the past decades, “treating people with dignity and respect” consistently correlated with sustainable high performing business cultures in a variety of business sectors and global cultures.   It is a subset of what I call “Ethical Role Modeling”.  I spoke about this on a business radio interview nearly twenty years ago.  In more recent research,  it still has resonance.

My reflections and  client conversation on the merits of  “treating people with dignity and respect” led me to a new insight.  Isn’t “treating people with dignity and respect” similar to the Golden Rule of “doing to others as you would have them do to you”?   After doing some research on world religions, I discovered that, interestingly enough, over twenty of the worlds great religions, which account for over seventy-five percent of the world’s population, espouse fundamentally the same “Golden Rule“.

I know how, in our secular society, mixing religious with business values is frowned upon. BUT , maybe there is cause for thought when businesses as well as Buddists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and other beliefs espouse fundamentally the same  core value of “high performance”.  If the key to getting along in the new and emerging global community is finding common ground, this might very well be food for thought.

Meaningful reflections!

Dr. Bill DeMarco

The Challenge of Meaningful Reflections in a Sound Bite World

Posted November 15th, 2022 in Business Culture by Dr. William (Bill} DeMarco


We live in a world where we have been conditioned by quick
sound bites. On radio and tv, it’s in ten words or less! No
matter what the medium, we insist on top line highly condensed information. We even learn speed reading…many advertisers go so far as to blast us with what I call “motor mouth advertising”…Look at Twitter, with its mandatory 140 characters.

Because of our hectic lives, our subconscious frequently cries out “spare me the details; I don’t have time for anything else!” We tend to view quiet time as either a luxury we can’t afford or an undesirable waste of valuable time. Even worse, we may have become so intellectually lazy we do not want to be challenged! 

So what do we get from the quick sound bite approach to life? For starters, we get more time for more quick sound bites! We have the growth of what I call “motor mouth advertising”. 

More significantly, we take a whole lot of risk when we let others tell us what we should think, feel, do. A meaningful example would be how we get information needed to make intelligent decisions about important or meaningful matters in our lives.

In our work lives, many if not most have grown to prefer top
line or bottom line results over details. Since executives, managers, and supervisors set the example of what good looks like within business cultures, it doesn’t take long for subordinates be behave in kind within their work environment. “Spare me the details” becomes a lifestyle up and down the organization, ultimately leading to meaningful dialogue becoming a thing of the past within our work and even home environments.  We just don’t know how to find the “off switch”. No wonder so many have difficulty falling asleep.  

Another place to look at when thinking about our sound bite world is the world of contracts; computer applications and cell phone services contracts are most often encountered by people worldwide. They go on and on, written in language specifically designed to encourage the consumer to go to the “I accept” button quickly. We value short, crisp language, and these contracts are anything but. 

And then there is the legalese language of insurance policies, mortgage agreements, tax codes, or contracts of all sorts.  Very few consumers are prepared to understand such documents

Another example would be how we consume newsin video or print formats.  I had a friend many years ago who was a foreign correspondent for a prestigious and particularly well-written international newspaper.  This was just prior to the days of CNN.  I remember how appalled David was with the popularity of the new USA Today because its format was a collection of brief bites with catchy titles.  Because it had almost no in-depth reporting, he called it “a ten minute read on a good day”!

In an ideal world, news is really information distilled and
interpreted from hundreds, thousands, and maybe even millions of bits of data. Our passion for getting to the point and “spare me the details” has all too often led to information passed off as News with little or no supporting data. My friend, David, was prescient about what this would lead to. I was not, at the time! Far too many societies/individuals have drunk the cool-aid of the unchallenged mind, and have grown to like it. In more recent times, it has even led to the idea of “alternate facts”.

Thomas Jefferson wrote that “a society
that wishes to be free and yet uneducated
expects what never was and never will be”.  He was obviously calling for an informed civil society, but it has a wider application. We need to make room in our lives for meaningful reflections based on a lifetime commitment to personal education…finding enough data we can translate into information…immersing ourselves into other points of view, all leading to informed decision-making.  

Health gurus have long written about the value of physical
stretching throughout our lives. This is a call for intellectual
stretching. Start with meaningful reflections. The minute we
stop learning for whatever practical reason is the minute we
become the manifestation of Eric Hoffer’s 1963 admonition:
“learners inherit the earth while the learned find themselves
perfectly equipped to inherit a world that no longer exists”.

All of this cries out for a change on our part.  It won’t be easy, but it is necessary!  The bottom line is to never stop learning, whatever this means for you. 

Create a daily environment of peace & quiet


Meaningful Reflections!  

Dr. Bill DeMarco 


[2022 update of an earlier article]