Clarity of purpose and commitment to action are essential characteristics of most successful organizations. If pursued to excess, however, these very same traits can result in people making unbalanced and unwise decisions. Achieving sustainable excellence is therefore more than simply knowing "how to," it also is about understanding the values that guide and frame our ambitions and desires.

I have been privileged to serve with and learn from many outstanding role models throughout my career in marketing. I started and grew a successful business. I consult on issues of trademark infringement, new product and business development growth strategies, as well as issues related to effective sales management. I actively engage the marketing profession through my research, publishing and service on the editorial review boards of two journals. In my spare time you will find me playing with my grandchildren, writing poetry, building or repairing something (both surrogates I suspect for extended problem solving) or planning my next cross-cultural excursion.

My lifelong fascination for how values are formed and change over time led to a natural curiosity for how people come to value "things" outside of themselves. The dynamic interaction of personal or group values attempting to acquire or exchange things of value brought me to a career in marketing. The opportunity to teach at St. Thomas resulted in the maturing of my career into that of a vocation. So what have I learned from my years of study, personal successes and failures that I can quickly share with you now?

First, we must all learn to actively discern whether our thoughts and actions are based on assumptions, cultural predispositions, personal desires or fears, or based on objective facts. The discipline of such discernment is rarely easy or obvious and requires that we remain actively mindful and reasonably self-confident so that we are neither threatened nor paralyzed by inconvenient truths. Establishing a healthy pattern of lifelong learning is as much about opening ourselves to possibilities as it is about accumulating information. In other words, we should seek to understand before trying to defend.

Second, the most successful and well-adjusted people I know rarely make excuses. They have learned how to minimize the effects of their weaknesses while capitalizing on their strengths. The weaknesses or handicaps of which I speak can be physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual. What matters is that successful people have learned to discern and therefore focus their efforts on those things they have some measure of control. The truly exceptional also realize that they are never alone in this task and are comfortable depending on others for their help, as the serenity prayer reminds us: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

There are, of course, many tools that we can use and skills that we can acquire to help us effectively transmute problems into opportunities. In this effort it is important to recognize that matters of human dignity, integrity, honesty, respect, solidarity and subsidiarity are more than simple inspirational goals but are the necessary building blocks that we need to use and depend upon each and every day.

And what are these tools, essential skills and related building blocks of success? And what does this all have to do with marketing? To answer these and other pressing questions, I invite you to engage or re-engage in the active conversation that is taking part within the St. Thomas community. It is for this reason that I have come to make St. Thomas the home of my professional activities.

In closing, I’d like share one of the poems that I sometimes use to engage my marketing students.

MarketingMarketing is morethan a simple set of toolsit is the values that wieldset in motion their useIt is the valueand valuing of othersin relation to selfthat forms the foundation of all exchange

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