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November 3, 1998

DRILLING DOWN

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As a teenager, Dan hadn’t traveled very far, and especially not far from home. And despite the fact that there was a war going on, Dan and his three childhood friends weren’t too worried about their safety. Who would want to harm three teenage boys, anyway?

Apparently, someone did, because Dan and his friends were taken prisoner during the war. Many of the young boys his age were murdered.

Dan, however, was quickly identified as one of the gifted and talented few out of the prisoners. His captors put him to work. Soon he found the favor of his captors, but he still faced struggles during times of standing up for his beliefs and personal values.

This was how the story started. The story ends after Dan and his three buddies work for four different generations of leaders. Dan outlived three of his bosses, and out-achieved their wildest expectations of his performance.

Who is this young man? He is the leader of the fearless foursome found in the Old Testament book named after him: Daniel. He worked under monarchy and he worked under democracy. He worked as an entry-level employee and he worked at the very top of the corporate ladder. He worked under people of different temperaments and beliefs systems. None of his leaders carried his same worldview or religious or political preferences as he did. Rulers died off one at a time, but young Daniel kept living and working, marking his with character and competence.

For example, Daniel once worked as an upper-level overseer of 120 mid-managers who were assigned the job of ruling over the affairs of the kingdom. The king needed someone to make sure his kingdom didn’t “suffer loss.” Because of Daniel’s squeaky clean image, he was put in charge. The king wanted to cut down on under-the-table payoffs. And Daniel did the job with utmost excellence.

I’ve never read or heard of anyone who has a more poster perfect performance of how to stand up without always standing out. Young Daniel did it right, and it would be worth our noting his approach if we have any interest in standing up for our beliefs without always causing a three-alarm fire drill to go off.

It helps to remember Daniel’s full story: He was a young Jew and had been asked to eat some food that wasn’t approved for his diet, something of a religious and personal family tradition and belief. So what’d he do? We’ll get to that, but let’s look first at what he didn’t do.

● He didn’t dishonor himself or his superiors.
● He didn’t say, “You idiots. Don’t you know that I am a young Jew and I can’t eat pork?”
● He didn’t put his hands on his hips and, in disgust, huff and puff his way around the room.
● He didn’t get mad nor did he get defensive.

So what did he do?

● He carefully thought through the issue and tried to come up with a win-win alternative.
● He asked questions to clarify the situation and to gain more understanding.
● He used wisdom and tact when communicating with others.
● He worked through the proper channels. In other words, he didn’t storm into the president’s office and cause a scene. He simply worked the issue at the appropriate level.

Right is right, even if everyone is against it; and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.—William Penn

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