Michael What a pleasant morning I had, George. The deal with Engineering Services went through without a hitch, and I got a call from Wayne Lewis at the home office to go up there to talk about some new possibilities for me. This could mean a transfer and promotion, maybe to Los Angeles.
George Might be nice. Did Wayne give you any details?
Michael All he said was I definitely fit into some of the exciting new directions the company wants to take in the next two years. It's funny. One thing he mentioned was the change in me that's occurred over the past 12 months.

Things really get back to headquarters that you have no idea of. I know my performance has shot up, but he was saying things about my attitude, how I dealt with people, you know, stuff like that.
George You've mellowed off a lot since I first met you. You have a lot of things in perspective now. You used to be, shall we say, a little pushy and even self-centered. The MBA syndrome maybe.
Michael Well, I feel a lot better now too. I'm on a health kick -- lots of running, better diet, and more sleep. It's funny. I think I spend less tine than I used to on work, but I must be getting more done. Maybe some of that Chinese wisdom has sunk in. You know, "work smarter not harder." That has to be in the Tao somewhere.
George Probably is.
Michael You were going to tell me about your gurus today, the ones that helped you become androgynous. Who are they? People with the company?
George Yes. One of then is Herman Williams whom I've worked with for years. He really got me started with his interest in Eastern philosophy, androgyny, and other sort of counter-culture things.
Michael He looks pretty conservative to me. That's a surprise to know that he's into all that stuff.
George Well he gets into a lot of things, but it's for personal reasons -- not because it's the latest fad or anything. You'd never know it by looking at him, and his work has always been very sound. Herman is just a nicer, normal, competent manager, and he has some interests that I got interested in too.
Michael Like the Tao?
George Sure. I realized that I had a lot of skepticism about things I knew nothing about. Well, I skimmed the Tao Te Ching in about 15 minutes at his house one day and found it to be just beautiful. Such simplicity, but paradoxical simplicity. It really got me to question my own values, especially my tendency to criticize other people's work as well as my own.
Michael How do you mean that, because I know I do the same thing just as a matter of routine. Something should be changed so I point it out.
George Right, but how much of that is just an involuntary expression of our critical Western minds, and how much is conscious concern over improvement. The Tao taught me that everything does not have to be perfect, that sometimes things change themselves, and that inaction is often more successful than action. I was ready to change my professional style and parts of my personal life.
Michael OK, I have a question for you. Isn't it hard as hell to change when you're say 35 or 40, and you've been trained to think a certain way. I know you pull it off real well, but wasn't it hard to change.
George Mike, it was one of the most pleasant and gentle experiences of my entire life. Look, let me explain it to you this way. The first 20 years of my life were spent learning how to think.

In the next 15 years, I chose and developed my professional specialization -- through business school, graduate courses, training programs, early job experiences. I really got good at what I was doing and moved through the various promotions about as fast as anyone.
Michael Yeah. So far I'm right with you. This LA thing sounds real promising.
George Well, anyway, there I was at 34 with lots accomplished, but for some reason, the future looked fairly unexciting. It's part of an "is that all there is?" questioning that I guess a lot of people go through. That's when I got interested in Herman's books.

I suppose if I had picked up the same material 5 years earlier I would have either ridiculed it or just ignored it. The point is I was receptive at 34, and Herman is a teacher to me only because I was ready to be a pupil.
Michael Was that the beginning of your mid-life crisis?
George Yes, except it was a transition and not a crisis. I didn't experiment wildly with all this new thinking or get into any exotic self-improvement programs. Very simply, I just began to see the world differently -- call it a more holistic view. I saw limits to endless analytical thinking, and gradually the things that really mattered to me became sharply focused.
Michael What were they?
George My family, music, developing friendships with some new people, and my own health and fitness. I also came to understand my own creative abilities once I learned to back away from my narrow, critical approach to everything.

And I also became more self-confident and less defensive about my work. I've done a lot of things that other people haven't, and I've done them on my own terms.
Michael But those were things you did using your specialized training. Aren't you afraid you might lose that by pursuing this Eastern mysticism?
George Not at all. First, I'm not throwing any of my training away. What I've done is augment that style with a more holistic receptive, approach. And, I can see that my more recent projects are better, both technically and artistically, than my earlier work. You know the Graves project I headed up.
Michael Sure. The talk of the company two years ago,
George Well, I was consciously aware of approaching that from both an analytic or Western mode and a holistic Eastern mode. When I was putting the final report together, the whole thing just seemed to come together so beautifully:

Therefore wise men embrace the one
And set an example to all.

Not putting on a display,
They shine forth.

Not justifying themselves,
They are distinguished.

It was just a marvelous experience, and I know I couldn't have done it when I was 30.
Michael It sounds like Herman Williams had less to do with your changes than you did. Why do you consider him to be that important?
George Well, because he was there when I was ready to change. It could have been anyone. If you're learning things from me, it's not because I'm the best teacher. It's just because I'm here. If you're not receptive then it won't matter how good your teacher is.
Michael I'll give that some thought. Sometime let's talk about other people that you have learned from. I might get some insight from your experiences.

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