Monthly Archives: January 2016

REVIEW Part II: A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links between Leadership and Mental Illness

A First-Rate Madness:

Uncovering the Links between Leadership and Mental Illness

By Nasir Ghaemi, M. D.

Review by John E. Wade II

REVIEW Part II

One of my personal heroes is Winston Churchill, who stood staunchly during World War II, inspiring Britain and the Allies to achieve their ultimate victory over Adolf Hitler, another figure examined in the book.  The author writes, “I believe that Churchill’s severe recurrent depressive episodes heightened his ability to realistically assess the threat that Germany posed.”

In describing Churchill from a psychiatric point of view, the author writes that Churchill “… meets the official definition of bipolar disorder, type II (hypomania alternating with severe depression).  It is also possible that he had more severe manic episodes, which we cannot fully document, yet had that been the case he would meet the diagnostic definition of standard bipolar disorder (also called type I).”

His mind never stopped.  Churchill was amazingly productive, aside from serving as minister and prime minister for decades; he wrote forty-three books in seventy-two volumes.  Because Churchill had battled illness and despair his whole life, he could and did convey to others that despair could be overcome, even in the bleak period of 1940.  He called his depression his “Black Dog.”  It’s as if he suffered and gained what the author called “depressive realism,” allowing him to recognize as early as October, 1930, the Hitler menace and to lead when his deep fears were realized.

Abraham Lincoln also demonstrated the worthwhile impact of depression and how it fostered empathy and tenacity.   Lincoln had a history of depression, including suicidal thoughts, telling a fellow politician that he “was the victim of terrible melancholy” sometimes, so he never carried a pocketknife because he couldn’t trust himself with it.  Lincoln sought compromise, but “after Fort Sumter, he realized that compromise was lost.”  He said slavery was the “… greatest wrong inflicted on any people.”

There have been a few leaders, like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., who had intently experienced depression, and out of sheer force of will made it a part of their political method.  The author states that he believes the “politics of radical empathy …  is the psychological underpinning of non-violent resistance.  Depression reveals the truth of empathy, and empathy, in turn, engenders unexpected powers of leadership.”

The author explains that “Emotional empathy, produced by severe depressive episodes, may prepare the mind for a long-term habit of appreciating others’ points of view.”  In my words, depression can produce a humble spirit that exudes kindness.

Both Gandhi and King suffered depression and yet were heroes in peace as Winston Churchill was a champion in wartime.

Dr. Poussaint gave a first-hand account, “King had a heartlessness about him … he set the pace in marches, he was strolling, not walking fast, nor slow; but strolling, and always right in the front line, which put him at risk.  Anyone could run out from the bushes and shoot him.”  King was not chronically depressed but “… experienced at least three probable depressive episodes in the beginning, middle and end of his life, the first associated with suicide attempts.”

The author does state, “No form of waging conflict always wins.”  Radical empathy in a non-violent way won the day for Gandhi and King, whereas Churchill and the Allies won World War II through warfare.

Humankind must learn to integrate nations, economies, investments, and communications, even religions in ways that reduce and eventually eliminate conflict.

The Bipolar Millionaire, Updated 2016 Edition

We have reorganized the first edition of my memoir in chronological order while keeping almost exactly the parts that we had originally included. I invite you to get a copy and I’ll bet you will have a hard time putting it down. People tell me it’s a “page-turner.”

It’s the honest account of my life up to now. Of course, as of now, I’m not a celebrity, but I expect you to be spellbound by the triumphs (first in my class in accounting at the University of Georgia) and tragedies (bipolar episodes until a cure late in life).

I worked 29 years as a CPA—in and out of responsible jobs. I had two failed marriages due to my bipolar disorder. And then, at age 57 in 2002 I became a multimillionaire through inheritances from Mother and Daddy, primarily Daddy who also had bipolar disorder. Despite his case, Daddy was good with money and was a superb investor.

I’m going to surprise you with the ending, the enormous effort that went into my cure.

REVIEW Part I: A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links between Leadership and Mental Illness

A First-Rate Madness:

Uncovering the Links between Leadership and Mental Illness

By Nasir Ghaemi, M. D.

Review by John E. Wade II

REVIEW Part I

This is a fascinating book, explaining in a compelling manner how some of the greatest leaders of the past two centuries—Abraham Lincoln, Gen. William T. Sherman, Winston Churchill, Mohandas Gandhi, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ted Turner among others—drew from their personal suffering to evoke sterling leadership abilities under the harshest circumstances.  The author also addresses the “flip side,” that is, weak leaders such as Neville Chamberlain who didn’t perceive the threat of Adolf Hitler.  He also presents a disturbing account of Hitler and his untreated and mistreated bipolar disorder, as well as the top echelon of his command who carried out his evil orders.

I urge everyone to read the complete book to come to understand, as I do, that unusual times call for extraordinary leadership, whereas ordinary times are better served by leaders who help “the trains run on time,” whether political, military or business.

For crisis leadership, bipolar disorder (with its mania and depression) can present vital elements of effectiveness, such as realism, resilience, empathy and creativity.  Depression invokes all four of those elements while mania promotes creativity and resilience.  Personally, I’d like to add one more quality to the three “high” states that the author presents (hyperthymia seen in Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR hereafter) and John F. Kennedy (JKF hereafter); hypomania exhibited by Churchill; and mania in Sherman and Turner), that of high energy.

Let’s go through the book with an open mind and a certain sense of awe that these leaders (excluding Hitler, of course) performed in a superb way beyond the limits where many in that situation would give up, as FDR with polio and JFK with Addison’s disease.

The book examines eight great leaders in “politics, military and business whose lives and work demonstrate various dimensions of the link between leadership and madness:  General William Tecumseh Sherman of Civil War fame; Ted Turner; Winston Churchill; Abraham Lincoln; Mahatma Gandhi; Martin Luther King, Jr., Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR); and John F. Kennedy (JFK).”  He also presents counterexamples of  healthy “normal” leaders who failed in time of crisis:  Richard Nixon, General George McClellan and Neville Chamberlain.

In this review I will not include all the figures that Dr. Ghaemi addresses, but will try to illustrate how democratic societies might have come to the point that only “normal” candidates can rise to great leadership even though such persons with depression (Lincoln and Churchill), creativity (Sherman and Turner), depression coupled with radical empathy (Gandhi and King), and resilience (FDR and JFK) can rise as necessary to handle times of great crisis.

The author, Nassir Ghaemi, M. D., is a professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine.  He trained in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, holds degrees in history (BA, George Mason University), philosophy (MA, Tufts) and public health (MPH, Harvard).

In identifying and analyzing these prominent individuals he used four criteria:  symptoms, genetics, cause of illness and treatment.  I will not duplicate his application of those telling standards on each figure, but I will say that I found his methodology and thoroughness completely convincing.

The author explains that “…  mental illness doesn’t mean that one is simply insane, out of touch with reality, psychotic.  The most common mental disorders usually have nothing to do with thinking at all, but rather abnormal mood:  depression and mania.  These moods aren’t constant.”

There is a growing “depressive realism hypothesis” which points out that “… depressed people aren’t depressed because they distort reality; they’re depressed because they see reality more clearly than other people do.”  This applies to Winston Churchill as he vividly saw the great threat of the rise of Adolf Hitler.

Mania can be accompanied by “… creativity, energy and sociability….” but if it is too pronounced it can lead to “… irritability, promiscuous sexuality, and lavish spending.”  The core of mania is “impulsivity with heightened energy.”

An early twentieth century German psychiatrist, Erst Kretschmer, said “Insanity is not a regrettable … accident but the indispensable catalyst of genius.”  The author states categorically that “The best crisis leaders are the mentally ill or mentally abnormal; the worst crisis leaders are mentally healthy.”  When writing of these crisis leaders he states, “The weakness is, in short, the secret of their strength.”

Just a brief comment about Sherman, a Union general who broke the back of the Confederacy with his unprecedented march through Georgia—burning Atlanta—on to Augusta, with similar tactics all the way through South Carolina to North Carolina.   “A month later, the war was over.”  Despite his mental breakdowns in the past, “With all this military success, Sherman had rehabilitated his image from crazy failure to insane genius.”

Creativity in any realm is not just solving old problems, but finding new problems to solve.  “Mania enhances both aspects of creativity:  the divergence of thought allows one to identify new problems, and the intense energy keeps one going till the problem is solved.”

Let’s briefly address Ted Turner, a legend in his own time in many ways.  The author states “I believe Turner was a success because of, rather than despite, his bipolar symptoms.”  Turner’s “… manic energy and creativity are relatively clear.”

Interestingly, the author relates that Leston Havens, a wise psychotherapist, once commented that he had known many people who had been improved by failure, and many ruined by success.  Failure deflates illusion, while success only makes illusion worse.  That’s a powerful assessment of human nature.  The author explains how early hardships in life—particularly harsh ones—tend to produce, “not infrequently, our greatest leaders.”

My Endorsement of Governor John Kasich as President

John R Kasich was elected governor of Ohio—a key swing state—first in 2011 and then reelected again in a landslide. He closed an $8 billion budget deficit without raising taxes and has reduced taxes by $800 million. Now that’s the sort of thing that can and would reduce our $200,000 per person national debt. This debt, entitlements, and a bloated federal government is pressing down on our economy. It’s invisible—but it is real in its effect.

Kasich is no stranger to taking on and solving big problems. He served as a member of Congress from central Ohio for 18 years and, as the chairman of the House Budget Committee, he led the effort to balance the federal budget for the first time since 1969 and helped enact historic welfare reform.

He has worked in the private sector and was a commentator for FOX News.

I read one of his books, Every Other Monday, and it convinced me of his fine character. After the Obama Administration and Secretary Clinton, we are in dire need of Governor Kasich who is described as known for being straightforward, optimistic and energetic.

Vote and support Governor John Kasich for president. It really matters, not only to Americans, but to the world.

The Dangers Of Stress

We can make a reality that would be wonderful. It’s in our own hands and Gods. When one honks a horn universally and causes negative emotions in another human being(s), that’s a lack of kindness that produces stress.

Stress is hurtful in many ways – recognized or not.

We must move forward toward a kinder, gentler, loving world. It’s not even conceivable to continue on as we currently do with an increasing number of ways to destroy ourselves – from nuclear proliferation to cyber warfare, not to mention climate change, bad water, etc.

I worry about President Obama and his lack of leadership except in the wrong ways. He has less than a year left in office, but he has proven over and over and over again that he can do so much damage, domestically and internationally.

The world is in jeopardy due to huge government debts and entitlements. In the U. S. we have a bloated federal government. We must be kind, but we must have complete control of our federal government – including the military. We need economic and military strength.

Right now, we don’t have that and President Obama is taking us down; he’s anti-American, the worst President in our history.

Our electorate must come to its senses. Voters must come to their senses in 2016. Our nation is headed toward a banana republic government without a middle class and a poor economy and military presence in the world, which is very bad from a humanitarian viewpoint.

Thoughts as We Begin the New Year, 2016

My first thought is personal. I want to marry Nancy and have a beautiful life together till death do us part. Nancy, will you marry me?

I want our lives to be balanced, certainly with fun and excitement—such as attending a winning Saints game. But I want our lives to have meaning and to count. The future is all we have ahead of us, and what is before us is inherently uncertain. A spiritual core allows one to maneuver through treacherous waters without losing one’s values and behavior.

I sincerely believe that Nancy will support me as a pathfinder toward heaven on earth. My hope and prayer is that many others will join in that triumphant march of destiny.

My concept of heaven on earth encompasses ten elements as follows: peace and security, freedom, democracies, prosperity, gender harmony, racial harmony, spiritual harmony, ecological harmony and health as well as moral purpose and meaning. I pray for these goals each night and invite all to do the same.

A new year calls for fresh goals, purposes, meaning—both in a personal sense and in every other way. We are in the Innovation Age and we must innovate in order to outrun the destruction due to artificial intelligence, bio-neurology and all the other changes that are coming faster and faster.

I believe we will survive this onslaught of change. But we can only do it through adopting sound spiritual cores, Copthorne Macdonald’s wisdom-associated values; empathy, truth, honesty, justice, cooperation, peace, compassion, universal well-being, creativity and general knowledge. We must also shun his negative values; selfishness, greed, envy, hate and revenge.

We must all seek the wisdom described above. What we say and do is what counts with God. But we need these values to support worthy behavior and we also need a spiritual foundation for the structure to withstand life’s inevitable challenges.

All human entities must change for the better.

When I asked Nancy to share her life with me, her answer was everything I could ask for; She said “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

 

John E. Wade II

With Nancy’s permission

REVIEW Part IV: The Business Solution to Poverty: Designing Products and Services for Three Billion Customers

The Business Solution to Poverty:

Designing Products and Services for Three Billion Customers

By Paul Polak and Mal Walwick

Review By John E. Wade II

Part IV

The chapter, “Why Business is Best Equipped to Fight Global Poverty,” starts with a statement that I heartedly endorse, “It’s not just that traditional methods have failed.  Businesses possess unique characteristics that are ideally suited to the task of innovating new approaches—and taking them to scale.”  The authors explain—and I certainly agree with them—that private businesses encompass three “…overarching and undeniable advantages in addressing the challenge of poverty:

  • Profitable businesses attract substantial capital.
  • Successful businesses hire lots of people.
  • Successful businesses are capable of reaching scale.”

The authors write—and again I fervently agree with them—that there are other factors that enhance the economic power of business as follows:

  • “Businesses, especially well-established companies, often can marshal all the necessary specialized expertise in design, financial management, marketing, and other fields that are usually lacking or inadequate in either the public sector or the citizen sector.
  • Private businesses tend to be less susceptible to political pressure than governments, multilateral institutions, and most citizen-sector organizations—especially in countries with weak governments.
  • Prosperous enterprises stimulate economic growth in the communities where they do business.”

The World Bank estimate of global GDP for 2013 is $75 trillion.  Approximately $1 trillion more is invested in the Global South as investors are “…eager to find opportunities for lucrative new investments there.”  However, there are dire challenges “…such as loss of hope, caste or class barriers, alcoholism, drug addiction, adherence to self-defeating religious beliefs, the subjugation of women, the lasting effects of childhood malnutrition, and severe physical or mental limitations—not to mention usurious moneylenders and landlords or corrupt and oppressive governments.”  The authors spell it out, “While improved education, health, political power, infrastructure, and nutrition all play important roles, we have no doubt that improved livelihood provides the most direct path to the end of poverty.”  I fervently agree with this summation.

The authors declare that, “Once you start the process of moving families out of poverty, their neighbors take notice and begin, quickly or slowly, to imitate them.”  The authors have decades of experience in the Global South and believe that “…the problems of poverty can be addressed on a large scale only through a new generation of multinational companies built to provide products and services expressly designed to meet the needs of the poor.”  Each such company will be able to do the following:

  • Transform the livelihoods of 100 million $2-a-day customers within 10 years
  • Generate annual revenues of at least $10 billion
  • Earn sufficient profits to attract investment by international commercial finance

Part Two

Zero-Based Design and the Bottom Billions

 Recommendations given to launch a business that can transform the lives of 100 million poor people include the following:

  • “Don’t take a course.
  • Don’t get a MBA.
  • Don’t read a book (except this one, of course.)”

First go to the people you want to help and “listen.”  “The simple truth is you can’t talk people out of poverty, and donating stuff to them usually won’t make a lasting difference either.”  I agree.  The “Takeaway” is, “Poor people have to invest their own time and money to move out of poverty.”

Following is the trilogy of “Don’t Bother”:

  • “If you haven’t talked to at least 100 customers in some depth before you start, don’t bother.”
  • “If your product or service won’t earn or save three times the customer’s investment in the first year, don’t bother.”
  • “If you can’t sell 100 million of your product or service, don’t bother.”

Another “Takeaway” was “To meet the biggest challenge in development—scale—your enterprise must aim to transform the lives of 5 million customers within 5 years and 100 million during the first 10.”  It is important to design for a generous profit, and one of the best ways to measure profit is by “free cash flow (the amount of money your business has available after paying for personnel, overhead, interest on loans, and any necessary investments in developing new products, purchasing new assets, or opening new markets).”  The business must pursue “ruthless affordability” for the poor people who require dramatically inexpensive materials, operations and overhead.  Whether the customers are rural or urban, it is critical to arrive at “…last-mile (more accurately, last 500 feet) distribution.”  Branding is necessary.

The book makes an optimistic statement worth repeating, and one which I concur, “…globalization has increased intercultural awareness, mobile phones have gone global with astonishing speed, concern has grown about global poverty, corporations are adopting socially responsible practices and policies (or pretending to do so), and young people leaving colleges and graduate schools have been demanding jobs that offer the opportunity for meaningful work.”  As for myself, I can’t be classified as a young person anymore, but I have come to the definite conclusion that my calling is calling toward Heaven on Earth.  This book review and my recommendation of the book itself are part of this ultimate quest.

One of three examples of ruthless design were outcomes of Stanford’s Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability.  It is “…the Fertiloo, an affordable compost latrine that provides rural families with access to improved sanitation while offering a safe and easy way to contain their human waste and use it as fertilizer for crops.  Designed to cost less than $100, the Fertiloo team received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is refining its design in the field in Haiti in collaboration with a local partner.”

There is a statement in the book that should be a red flag to major global corporations, “There’s already considerable evidence that major corporations will remain competitive in the global marketplace only by creating vibrant new markets serving $2-a-day customers at scale in addition to serving more affluent customers.”  Another such bold comment is, “The corporations of the future will need to serve the bottom-of-the-pyramid customers as well as the rich to stay in business.”

According to the book, “…there are a billion people who never connect to electricity…Another billion people don’t have access to safe drinking water.”  They believe there are three reasons that the needs of the bottom pyramid are not being met by existing businesses:

  • “They don’t see the profit in it.
  • They don’t have a clue how to design the radically affordable products and services that poor people need.
  • They don’t know how to design and operate profitable last-mile supply chains.”

As an example of how corporations can move in the direction of solving these problems and addressing the opportunities, the authors point to Walmart and how they have prospered at higher levels of wealth with small margins and large volume.  Incidentally, just a day ago I read an Investor’s Business Dailyarticle (December 24, 2013) entitled, “Africa’s Fast Growth Attracts Investment.”  One of the interesting investments highlighted in that article was when “…Wal-Mart became one of the first big U.S investors when it paid $2.4 billion in 2011 to buy South African retailer Massmart.”  The book states that Wal-Mart and others are not yet reaching that bottom pyramid.  But I think they will; and they have to start by entering these Global South countries.

In “The Ruthless Pursuit of Affordability,” the authors sum up a lot, “Products that are attractive to poor customers must indeed be affordable, but they also need to work well and look good.  Poor customers are, if anything, more aspirational than the rich.  And their demands and need for value are greater, too.  When money is scarce, it’s got to be used as efficiently as possible.”  An example of such a product is the treadle pump, “…widely regarded in development circles as one of the most successful income-generating innovations introduced to poor farmers around the world.”  It “…is operated by an individual using StairMaster-like pedals to draw water from as deep as 20 to 25 feet underground or from lakes or streams….It’s estimated that a total of three million pumps have been put to work on small plots of land, primarily in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.  These three million treadle pumps are now generating new net income of more than $300 million per year for one-acre farmers who live on less than a $1 a day—not a trivial sum to any but the very largest businesses on Earth.”

Step by step the authors explain how to go about designing such products; I encourage anyone with a practical interest to explore this chapter completely, as well as the rest of the book.  The path to prosperity in Heaven on Earth depends on such actions.

The chapter, “Zero-Based Design in Practice: Low-Cost Drip Irrigation” is a case study of how drip irrigation for small acreage was developed.  I will not retell the case study—I urge you to read the entire book; but the chapter has this “Takeaway,” “Design for extreme affordability rarely comes easily.  Making anything both workable and cheap may take years of careful, incremental adaptation and revision.  But it can be quite rewarding.  During the past two decades, the area under drip irrigation and other micro-irrigation methods has risen at least six-fold globally, from 4 million acres (1.6 million hectares) to more than 25 million.  Gains in China and India have been the most dramatic.”

The “Design for the Market” chapter explains how hard it is to solve the technical problems and has this “Takeaway,” “Designing a branding and marketing strategy and a last-mile supply chain that will put your product or service in the hands of millions of customers is three-quarters of the design challenge.”  This chapter explains how the treadle pump was marketed successfully.  I encourage all to read the whole of it.  “Every key player in the distribution chain has to make an attractive profit…[Paul Polak, co-author] doesn’t work with any technologies unless the customer can get three times his money back in the first year by using the technology.”

The “Zero-Based Design in Practice: A Cautionary Tale” chapter gives a case study of a well-intentioned attempt of a MIT-conceived solution to the use of wood charcoal in places like Haiti.  Such use “…results in devastating soil erosion—a major contributor to the hundreds of lives lost every year due to mudslides and flooding—and can also lead to…degradation of aquatic life along the coasts of Haiti…[and]causes respiratory problems in children and increases the risk of cancer.”  I will leave this case study to you to decipher, only to say that “The fatal flaw in the project was that no one on the field team understood marketing.”  The author gives a final assessment of what might have been done and I agree with them that succeeding in these ventures requires, “…a whole lot of work.”  But if you do it right—over time—you can become a pathfinder toward Heaven on Earth.