Fishing for world peace and safety

October 1, 2006 By    

My first real vacation in seven years was a fishing trip this summer in the Canadian wilderness with some diverse and distinguished individuals.

 Jay Johnston
Jay Johnston

Included in the group was a former vice president of the United States, several captains of industry, a distinguished Air Force officer and F-16 pilot/trainer, a Peace Corp veteran and a few sons and grandsons.

One of the unique characteristics of the group was that a majority came from humble beginnings. All were independently successful in their own fields of endeavor and their successes were founded in strength through adversity.

We said grace before each dinner and lied about fishing as we ate.

After dinner, our host, a successful food-manufacturing CEO, would hold court at the big round table. We addressed subjects such as overcoming adversity, leadership ethics, world peace and which world leaders have had the greatest impact on where we are today.

The first night, the topic was: What advice would you have for the younger members regarding the key to your success? The former vice president spoke to the higher virtues of doing what is right when faced with a dilemma. The largest industrial captain spoke to the virtues of succeeding while serving others. One member spoke of being in the right place at the right time. I referenced learning to soar with your strengths.

The second evening, the topic changed to: Overcoming adversity. Each adult in the group shared an experience that helped define them as authentic pioneers of prosperity and productivity. The young folks in the group learned a great deal about the grit it takes to succeed with authenticity, rather than risk the loss of your integrity or reputation.

The third night, we were assigned NATO countries and each of us had to propose a solution to the Middle East war. To our chagrin, we could not agree on a solution, which underlined the complexity of the issues and the problem. Everyone agreed U.S. oil interests were a dominating factor.

The fourth evening, we were each asked to name the person we felt has had the greatest impact on changing the United States and the world. Two in the group had met Harry Truman personally. His character and strength were discussed at length.

One chose a seasoned world traveler named Gorbachev for his dismantling of Russia in the name of prosperity and peace. Another chose John F. Kennedy for his leadership ability. Osama Bin Laden was mentioned. I suggested Bill Gates. The groans were thunderous, yet, as the evening wore on, many agreed I had a point. That was the neat thing about this experience. We could each speak our minds and defend our positions without regard for possible disagreement, or each other’s economic status or political prowess.

The experience was humbling, exhilarating and inspiring. We each shared what we felt was important in life, for each other and for the young folks in the group.

The one common theme on leadership and success kept coming down to “always do what is right when faced with a difficult choice” – which is also great advice for achieving safe growth.

At your next safety meeting, ask each attendee to share an example of a work situation that involved doing the right thing in the face of adversity, confusion or indifference.

You will be surprised at the results of those conversations.

Once you hook those great safety ideas, reel them in and protect the bottom line.

And that is how I spent my vacation fishing for world peace and safety.

Jay Johnston ( is president of Jay Johnston & Associates, specializing in insurance, safety and leadership strategies specifically tailored for propane marketers. He can be reached at 952-253-2710.

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