My talk today in honor of Religious Freedom Day

How often do you get to see a speaker’s original script? Here’s mine, below, from today’s Religious Freedom celebration. It was a great event. The home of religious freedom in America is considered to be Historic Fredericksburg, Virginia, where Thomas Jefferson and his team first drafted the concepts underlying our First Amendment. And in the heart of winter, following weeks of cold / grey / wet weather, we had a sunny, 60-degree Springlike day that might have indicated the approval of the Almighty Himself!

At Religious Freedom 160110 with Munira
A few of us up on the stand before the ceremony

I was honored to deliver the keynote for today’s annual event, which was hosted by the Knights of Columbus and supported by the Freemasons. We had representatives from numerous faiths, including my friend Munira, whom you’ll remember from the pages of Powerful Peace.

My comments were lengthy, as you’d expect from a 12-minute keynote, but I thought I’d drop them in here in case you have the time to read them through and give them some thought.

Munira and Cindy at Religious Freedom 160110
Cindy and Munira enjoy Springtime in winter

Without further ado, my tribute to religious freedom:

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Like every other person in the world, I had my own ideas about religious freedom. So to make sure I did not misrepresent the general understanding, I first consulted that great oracle of the 21st Century…Wikipedia:

“Freedom of religion or freedom of belief is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.”

Actually, although I found the definition through Wiki, it is referenced directly from the UN’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” article 18, which states that:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Look how similar that is to Thomas Jefferson’s own “Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom” from 1779, which we celebrate today:

“No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men…

( …Or women, of course, was their ideal…)

shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

In other words, you cannot be prevented from even becoming President by virtue of being a Jew, or an atheist … or a Catholic! But that’s exactly what happened in the United States for almost 200 more years until JFK’s 1960 run. According to his own Presidential Library:

“Only one Catholic, Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York, had ever been the nominee of one of the major parties. His 1928 campaign was derailed by claims that he would build a tunnel connecting the White House and the Vatican…

(… Are there any engineers in the house? How tricky would that project be? …)

… and would amend the Constitution to make Catholicism the nation’s established religion. He was overwhelmingly defeated nationwide.”

Does that sound ridiculous today? Let me now speak out on behalf of all of us in this “one nation under God:” less than a century later, we have a similar alarming trend—according to a poll by the Associated Press last month, about 8 in 10 Americans said protecting the religious freedom of Christians is important … in the same poll, about 6 in 10 said the same about Muslims. The Jews fell right in the middle, as 7 in 10 respondents said their religious freedom should be protected.

Eric Rassbach, a religious liberty attorney, said:

“People may not realize you cannot have a system where there’s one rule for one group and another rule for a different group you don’t like. No religion is an island. If somebody else’s religion is being limited by the government, yours is liable to be limited in the same way. Even if you only care about your own particular group, you should care about other groups, too, because that’s the way the law works.”

And this is the my main point on this issue: we have a system of law in this country, based on protecting religious freedom, and that system itself is designed to uphold the laws of the land. Some Mormons in Utah insisted on practicing bigamy, counter to the law of the land, and some of those are in prison for it. If any faith demands its way in opposition to the law of the land, it will be handled accordingly. We need to trust ourselves a little more and let the system work, rather than terrifying one another with dire threats about competing systems taking over. We’re better than that…although you wouldn’t know it from the frenzy on social media today.

In my own book, Powerful Peace, I unpacked this situation in what I hope are helpful terms. And this is in the context of the “mosque war” that raged regarding the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in 2010:

[hold up and read these highlighted portions from chapter 37, “In defense of faith”]

“The mosque war caused some unacceptable and ironic casualties against deeply-held American values called freedom of religion and respect for diversity.

My two-part response to The Question that The Muslims are Waging a Stealth Jihad against America:

Answer Part A) YES…there is a stealth jihad underway.

Think about it: any group sophisticated enough to carry out the complex attack of 9/11 is smart enough to come at the problem (us) on multiple fronts. They told us who they are: al Qaeda. And AQ said it speaks for all of Islam.

Remember that Hitler said he spoke for all good Germans. Remember, too, that through the skillful manipulation of grievances and fears, he whipped up a fever pitch against another cultural-religious group, that he accomplished this through impassioned nationalism…and that the German language root for ‘nationalism’ led to the term Nazi.

Answer Part B) NO…it’s not ‘the Muslims’ who are after ‘us,’ any more than cop killer Eric Rudolph and his Christian supporters could be interpreted as proof that ‘the Christians’ are out to murder abortion doctors.

There are unsettling similarities between today’s warnings to WATCH OUT for Them-There Muslims and der Fuhrer’s earlier hysteria-laced speeches warning about the menace of Them-There Jews.

This appeal is not intended to raise Islam above Christianity, or vice-versa. I’m merely asking that we pause in our daily drama to consider where each of our fellow humans is really coming from. I believe in God, and I believe God made us all. I’m also pretty sure that each of us is flawed and sees only a small part of the whole picture.

Not one of us is big enough, brothers and sisters, to declare that we individually hold all of God’s truth. I suspect God finds our presumption either very amusing, or very irksome.”

I have a shocking admission: I haven’t always been a Christian. Before joining the Navy and circling the world for decades, I was raised a Protestant in a tiny village of 1,000 people in Upstate New York. Needless to say, everybody knew everybody—and everybody knew everybody else’s business. I was told that God loved honesty and right behavior…yet every Sunday I would see the adults sharing coffee and cookies with individuals we all knew had been doing some pretty bad things, and acting like nothing was wrong. In adolescent, intellectual disillusionment at this hypocrisy I left the church at 15. I first tried to be an atheist. That didn’t stick, and lasted about a week. I then wandered among other traditions like Buddhism and even paganism for about 20 years, finally being compelled by my re-reading of the Bible to return to my roots…with a wizened and skeptical eye for what people tell me about God.

Gandhi, who arguably lived a more Christlike life than many professing Christians, said:

“True religion is not a narrow dogma. It is not external observance. It is faith in God and living in the presence of God.”

We find a similar understanding and tolerance in the First Amendment of the Constitution, part of our American Bill of Rights:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Think about this: every one of you here today has the inalienable right to start your own religion, if you’re so inclined. I thought about establishing Robism, but my Christian beliefs wouldn’t let that go very far. The point is, you and I are blessed mightily to be here in this land where the freedom to worship is not only a right; it is our responsibility to ensure for all others.

We have a privilege unknown to many around the world. This comes with an obligation to defend. I’ll leave you with these final wise words of Thomas Jefferson, found on this plaque that sits on my desk:

[hold up and read plaque]

“There is a debt of service due from every man to his country, proportioned to the bounties which nature and fortune have measured to him.”

[return to seat]

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(Care to learn more about my commonsense approach to improving your Self, your Teams, and your Security? Check out our site at SEALofPeace.com or connect with me at social media: Twitter | Facebook Google+ | LinkedIn | Instagram)

Next lesson in the Powerful People process: T&A

Do you like the name? Powerful People? Seriously. I’m asking because our yearlong personal (radical) growth program for 2015 is rapidly taking form. I have a small team of advisers helping me do the polishing-up of the whole thing for content, format, even pricing. But this is something I thought I’d toss out there for everyone’s input. Drop a comment to this post if you love or hate the title “Powerful People; Sculpting Your Masterpiece Life” for the course itself.

And that brings me to the next lesson, one of the key areas you will be working on and developing during the Powerful People(?) series. I took a week off from blogging so we could focus on the course development and I am seriously excited about where it’s going to take you…and me, because only a dummy would walk away from an interaction without learning something!

This third lesson, following #1) Daily Quickie and #2) Recording, is “T&A.” Again, it’s not what you might think. Here’s why:

SEALs like myself, other commandos, and folks throughout the military services practice what’s called “PT”—that stands for “Physical Training.” It just means exercise, or what many know as “working out.” But years ago, after devouring Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits ideas about balancing your lifestyle to also honor learning, loving and leaving a legacy, I formed for myself the framework you’ve been reading about the four “Human Aspects” of Body, Mind, Heart and Soul.

If it’s true that all four are important to a healthy life, then can’t we train all four? Actually, shouldn’t we? So I began doing not only PT, but also planning and practicing MT (Mental Training), ET (Emotional Training), and ST (Spiritual Training). In fact, you’ll recognize those terms as what we get started every morning with the “Quickie.” Of course, one minute of focus on each in your morning Quickie is not enough to keep you fit in any of the Aspects … but it does prime the pump and get you started for the day. In the Powerful People(?) course you’ll be learning to determine and plan exactly where and how you need to allot extra attention on any of the four.

But here’s the kicker: it’s all well and good to plan to exercise three hours a day, read a great book every day, have a deep conversation every day and meditate for an hour every day…but those seven hours daily are not very practical for most of us in the real world. (I hope Paris Hilton enjoys having that freedom.) To be honest, on some wildly hectic and demanding days, you won’t even be able to do more than five minutes for your Quickie! And this is why we don’t only Train, we Align…with reality. We acknowledge both T and A. And that’s how you grow constantly, without losing your mind along the way. Build your growth process to serve you, not to make yourself a slave to it.

For years I would beat myself up whenever I couldn’t fit in that 5-mile run I needed, or finish a big reading assignment, because circumstances were prohibitive. But here’s reality: on some days you’re going to be wiped out from sitting up all night with the sick kid. On others, the emergencies of the boss become your emergencies, and you barely have time to grab crap from the candy machine to keep “food” in your gut during a 13-hour workday. Sound familiar? When you’re sick yourself, things get even tougher. So here’s the deal: allow for the reality of your life to influence your practices, plan accordingly beforehand and adapt during. That’s what SEALs do. When you miss a day, don’t cling to it and drag yourself down with regret—toss it away and grab onto the next opportunity, the next workout, the next chance to accelerate your mission!

This isn’t a lesson on making excuses. Honestly, the better you learn to build your own growth plan, the more you’ll want to do the things you set out for yourself. You’ll miss them when you can’t go for that run (if that’s your thing), or get ahead on that reading project—because you’ve claimed them, you’ve chosen them, you’ve embraced the value they bring to the life you love building for yourself and your family. But as the days along the way are high or low, you won’t collapse and wander off the path, because you know the path has the good stretches and the not-so-good. One of my favorite expressions is applicable: “If you’re going through hell … keep going!”

Align yourself with the reality of your day. Flow with the time and energy available. Pour in a little more when you have a surplus. The inevitable result will be constant progress along the unique path to your incredibly bright future.

Be sure to also Subscribe to my other Blog, “Powerful Peace”

bookHopefully by now you’ve read about the Daily Quickie and its incredible power to align your whole day in just 5 minutes. (If not, be sure to review my previous post.) A little later this week I’ll be expanding into the next level of SEAL of Peace Consulting philosophy: the SoP Balance Sheet.

Our Balance Sheet lets you track exactly how well you’re planning and executing your day-to-day and week-to-week life according to your ideals. Haven’t we all heard that a person needs 4-6 glasses of water, 7-8 hours of sleep, 20-30 minutes of exercise, and some Me Time to recharge your batteries and review your priorities? Plus more? Every day? And that’s not counting what your boss and family ask you to do!

Are you already doing all that? Awesome. You’re far more dialed in than me…and 97% of the population. 😉

If you’re not already doing all that, congratulations. You’re human. And like the Daily Quickie, nothing helps more than little habitual “tricks” to stay on track. In the next post here I’ll share the core of the Balance Sheet, and how you can get one of your own.

But first, a quick plug for my much longer-running Powerful Peace blog at WordPress—I began writing that in 2008 from the heart of war, out of Baghdad. Powerful Peace (note the incredible coincidence between the blog’s title and my book’s title!) was actually instrumental in getting the book going, which I probably would never have done if the core elements had not already been online. War is a busy business.

So be watching here for more on the Balance Sheet. And for Pete’s sake jump over to Powerful Peace and Subscribe (for free, of course) right now. You’ll never have a better time for it—we’re posting the ENTIRE BOOK on the blog, one chapter every weekday. You can read chapters 1-5 right now! This is our annual “10Weeks to Powerful Peace” campaign and it lets us put the concepts into many, many more great people’s minds than the bookstore does. Here it is again! Visit and Subscribe to Powerful Peace.

Align yourself for a successful day…with a SEAL of Peace “Daily Quickie”

As David Allen @GTDGuy (of Getting Things Done fame) teaches, being productive does not have to be complicated. He says that the simpler the tricks we develop for ourselves, the easier it is to be consistent…and thus productive.

When I did effectiveness coaching for my own SEAL of Peace clients, I urged them to focus on what matters most to them right now, not stare in paralysis at all the backed-up troubles of their lives. Face it—we all have more to do than we can do right now, and more to worry about than we can solve right now.

(NOTE: After a  few months’ hiatus due to demands in my own busy life, I’ve made the decision to make those coaching calls available again. I’ll be taking on not more than ten new clients. There’s info at the bottom of this article if you’re interested.)

Of course, “focus” is great in theory…but how can you really stop worrying about everything, when everything is what you’re worried about??

Trick yourself. Grab the frazzled ends of the many areas of concern around your life, and tug them into alignment.

With a quickie.

I know some of you are thinking of something else right now, so let me define the trick more clearly: every morning, set aside just 5-10 minutes to satisfy a little bit of everything, and crystallize your world with a Daily Quickie. Spend 1-2 minutes on one discipline in each of your four balanced Human Aspects of Body, Mind, Heart and Soul.

Here’s how I practice it: I set my iPhone’s timer for 60 seconds and time myself at each of these in order:
— Doing “Ten Counts” (a SEAL exercise, but you can do sit-ups, toe touchers, or whatever suits your personal condition);
— Reading a page of a book that grows me (GTD as mentioned above, 7 Habits…maybe Powerful Peace?);
— Writing a tight entry in my daily journal…note that this is NOT a thesis! Stay focused and stay on time;
— Praying and meditating for JUST 1-2 minutes.

Note that this is not all I do in a day in any of these areas. I love to run, and when I do I run more than one minute. I also love to dig into a book that makes me bigger than I was before I cracked it open (or even since the LAST time I read it!) I firmly subscribe to Jeff Olson‘s credo to read 10 pages of something every day, to build unstoppable growth in your personal and professional life.

As the wardrobe guy says in the TV show I’m acting for, “If it’s tight, it’s right!” The point of this strict discipline in the Daily Quickie is that it prevents you from allowing “creep” into your morning routine. Haven’t you ever set out to do something hard (“I’ll do 100 pushups every day”) and then found yourself slacking off…and then found yourself no longer keeping that promise at all? If you spend “just” a few extra minutes of your Daily Quickie on the Body exercise, and then you overindulge in “just” a few more minutes because the book is really good, you’ll make yourself late for work. And then you’ll get in trouble. And then you’ll be mad at me! Nope, keep it tight.

Don’t get mad at me, because I’m telling you to keep this thing short! Demand of yourself that you not drift off course.

If you just do a little bit in each of these every day, I can promise that:
1. You’ll naturally align and balance your four Human Aspects for the day;
2. You’ll establish momentum in your day, and be very hard to pull off course;
And, most importantly;
3. You’ll become mindful of your whole self, and see which areas you really do need to set time aside for later.

Plus, if you keep it tight and right, you’ll have time to sip that coffee and still get to work early!
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COACHING OPPORTUNITY:
As mentioned above, I’m excited to be able to re-launch Coaching! It was disappointing when we had to break ties in order to build other areas of SEAL of Peace. Anyway, I’m going to reopen the door just a crack, and take on not more than 10 new clients. We’ve also priced this low to make the launch quick and neat. If you’d like to learn more jump over to our Coaching section at the SEAL of Peace Services Page. Every potential coaching relationship starts with a no-cost consultation call, so there’s no commitment! We’ll only move forward if it makes sense.