Carly Fiorina captured my attention when she became a forerunner for the job as CEO of Hewlett-Packard. HQ of this behemoth is just up 280 from here. Acres of HP buildings blanket Cupertino, thousands of my neighbors must work there.
I'm reading her book, Tough Choices, and admire her ability to write, think and conduct herself. I like her more as the fired chief than I ever did when she held the post. She was a Big Deal in the news with the Compaq merger, for massive layoffs and for, of course, being unceremoniously booted by the company's board. (The same board that we now know was a simmer pit of malfeasance. Being kicked from that club, as it turns out, was an honor.)
Her thoughts on character may be what I like most. She identifies character as the most important, fundamental part of being. She defines it as Candor, Integrity and Authenticity -- as good a definition as I've ever heard.
Candor, she says, is about speaking the truth, and about speaking up and speaking out.
Integrity is about having principles, preserving them and acting on them.
Authenticity is knowing what you believe, knowing who you are and standing up for both.
Her definitions are rich. It's not enough to tell the truth; you must speak out about the truth. Having principles is good, but integrity is when you preserve and act on them.
Authenticity is one I struggle with. I'm sure of what I believe, and I'm good at standing up for it. But I'm not sure who I am. And I know I'm not good for standing up for whoever she is.
With tender feelings and a thin skin (despite outward appearances, pun not intended), I feel myself being buffeted by the opinions of others. I tend to gauge my "worth" by how I'm evaluated, with little attention to the qualifications of the judge.
Living this way that involves a constant sense of inferiority. Though it may seem improbable to those who know me, my goal is to please. If that involves abandoning who I am (whoever that is), so be it. The problem results when I forget to stand up for myself, and become locked in a struggle between my nature and my actions.
Don't misunderstand -- I can stand up for what I believe, and what I know. I can stand up for my children and for inequity. I'm articulate, argumentative and I like to think of myself as persuasive, though I've also been told I'm stubborn. In other words, I don't lack for the force of will, except when it comes to being -- or accepting, or even knowing -- who I am.
I read an essay tonight about the implications of the answer to a fundamental question. A we are who we are because of what we become, or because of what we were predetermined to be? Determinism has powerful arguments and a nice sense of order. But having seen the effects of life events on people, I can't imagine that a person's nature can't be changed by these external forces of both good and evil.
The essayist is Fred Hutchinson (he calls himself a "Christian intellectual" but strikes me as someone who should always, always live in a red state if you know what I mean).
What he said that has me thinking is this: "A being determined by external forces has no intrinsic design." The result, he deduces, is someone flailed by the experiences of life.
In his somewhat loopy logic, I can't tell if that's an argument for or against determinism, but I still think it's accurate.
This circles back to Carly. She says the philosopher Hegel has had a profound impact on her thinking. He thought about the tension between thesis and antithesis, and identified the goal of synthesis, or finding middle ground between opposing forces. This philosophy's effect on her is clear: She describes herself as a peacemaker, a mediator, as someone who can find the middle ground. That's her preferred way of being.
I have an intrinsic design. I am someone, and others tell me I am someone with a powerful way of being in the world. But knowing myself primarily in the mirror of the perception of others is antithetical to truly knowing myself. What you think of me is important, but should be filed under "good to know," not "truth."