Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Total Visibility

One of my early business mentors taught me many important lessons about life, business, career and becoming who I was made to be. One day we’re sitting in his office discussing a recent blunder due to one of my many management and personality shortcomings that led me to broadcast how great I was to the entire world.

He turned to me and said, “Chet, visibility is a two-edged sword.”

At the time, I just brushed it off as one of his mindless saying. After all I was a superstar, winning annual awards and bonuses for exceptional performance. I was assigned high risk projects and represented the company at industry events. I chaired a very influential industry-wide committee that was working towards changing the technology landscape for everyone associated with insurance. It was no secret to the company or management team that I was self-centered, arrogant and lacked any humility. Ultimately, I’m certain this contributed to my senior role being eliminated in a downsizing exercise.

Time and pain have changed me – I now see that he was absolutely right. Gently, he was trying to get my attention off myself and my over-sized ego. I am forever indebted to his patience, wisdom and character that allowed him to tell me some very tough and painful truths about myself. He said it in a way that caused me to listen, not crush me as a person. He is an important person that helped change and mold me in some very significant ways.

Through visibility into their technology, there has been a continual waterfall of fallen leaders and those we admire. Their once brilliant reputations have been dragged through cyberspace mud as emails and other texts reveal deep personal and moral choices. Some notable examples;
  • Gen. David Petraeus – resigned from his CIA leadership position as top-secret emails and information was compromised through his ongoing extra-material affairs with Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelly
  • Gen. John Allen also has come under increasing scrutiny for his potential role in Petraeus’ affairs and “inappropriate Emails”
  • Lance Armstrong resigned from Livestrong (his cancer-fighting charity) and Nike terminated their contract after he was stripped of all Tour de France victories for use of performance enhancing drugs

It’s very easy to point the finger at these and other public figures as their moral and judgment failures come to light. It seems like people have this belief that whatever is keyed in private remains that way. Since no one is looking over their shoulder as they type, they think it is safe to hit the send button.

As someone who works in the computer/information industry, let me tell you that “flying under the radar” continually gets harder and more difficult with technology. Not only are there detailed and an un-erasable breadcrumbs left behind through posts, emails, text messages and credit card transactions, your location and movements are being tracked through social media sites, mobile devices (phones/tablets), store membership programs and as you drive (yes, cameras and software are tracking license plates as you travel.)

While some people find this monitoring of our activities highly intrusive, others want to be connected 24/7. For example, it doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but how did you feel when there was no signal for your cell phone? Were you happy that no one was listening or did your blood pressure spike to new heights and your face turn red while the hair on the back of your neck stood up in anger?

It is becoming increasingly harder to “fly under the radar” due to technology but this is not really a new idea at all. I don’t think Jesus was thinking about technology when he said “Everything that is secret will be brought out into the open. Everything that is hidden will be uncovered. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight. What you have whispered to someone behind closed doors will be shouted from the rooftops.” [1]

Jesus was explaining that our creator and father God is not Big Brother [2], but like any parent is deeply interested in his children. He was so interested that he personally invested his time and energy to watch over everyone and everything. Unlike us who can only be in one place, focusing on one thing at a time, he is able to see and interact with everyone and everything at the same time.

I hope you are more than comfortable with the truth that God sees, hears and knows all our words, thoughts, actions and attitudes. We can’t “fly under the radar” and achieve invisibility with God. And yet in spite of this “total visibility” his acceptance and love are great, deep, wide and certain. We can know this because he says it’s true. [3]

So, there is no need to hide with God. He knows us and everything about us. We are visible to him, and that is really good news.

Blessings – Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.

[2] Big Brother is a fictional character in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. He is the dictator of a totalitarian state where the government wields total power. Everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities and people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase "Big Brother is watching you", which is the core "truth" of the book.

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