Mark Twain and the Grammies
Issue 21 – April 2013
IN THIS ISSUE
Hanging out in Memphis, waiting for our leadership development event with FedEx at our hotel on the poorly branded “Mud Island” and looking out at the Mississippi with the barges slowly floating by and the riverboats docked just up the river, we started thinking about Mark Twain. Well, why not? Hannibal, Sam’s hometown, is about a 6-hour drive up the river, and he was, of course, a steamboat pilot on the river.
Twain was a thought leader of his time; bringing courage, humor, and controversy to his observations on politics, religion and the state of being human. He advised, “To succeed in business, avoid my example.” And this was born out by his bankruptcy. He invested in several inventions, famously the Paige typesetting machine that lost him the equivalent of $8 million today. One quality he demonstrated here was character—choosing to pay off all of his creditors as he made more money, even though he wasn’t legally obligated after the bankruptcy.
“You know, I’m all for progress, it’s change I object to.”
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This Twain witticism captures the essence of what many of us in organizational development and change work experience. Everyone can agree that progress is essential, and will openly recognize the need to innovate, adapt, adjust, adopt, alter direction, and grow. But the changes, chaos and disruption that this entails can be painful, and one can hear the existential groan when a change project or a merger is announced. It is also risky—the change might not work. But the reward is new markets, products, more effective and efficient operation, and organizational longevity when change is successful and they are able to get the change process right.
Mark Twain experienced a lot of change and experimentation in his early life on the path to finding his calling. He tried his hand at many “career paths” before becoming the writer whose works have enjoyed enduring success. He was a typesetter and printer, a master riverboat captain, a failed miner, and a journalist.
“I like to instruct people. It is noble to teach oneself. It is still nobler to teach others, and less trouble.”
Twain was a leader in calling out the truth, and being willing to make waves. He spoke and wrote as an abolitionist, an anti-imperialist, and supported women’s suffrage. “In his mature writing life, Mark Twain began to lay bare truths about racial oppression with a particular vigor, using a new and democratic literary language that would forever change American prose.” [R. Titta , Mark Twain and the Onset of the Imperialist Period]
When we think of Mark Twain, we remember his humor, his great way of laying down a tale, and how he boldly spoke for what he believed in—all while using his humor to engage and invite his audiences into thoughtful consideration of what he was saying.
"Success is a journey, not a destination. It requires constant effort, vigilance and re-evaluation"
Ken McGloin (MD for FTM) is featured playing lap steel and guitar on The Okee Dokee Brothers record, “Can You Canoe”.
The recording won a Grammy for
. Also note worthy, the producer/engineer of “Can You Canoe”, Dean Jones provided his musical prowess on the latest FTM CD “
,” and is often found in the band at FTM events.
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