Lois Henderson, one of Bookpleasures.com's reviewers welcomes as our guest the keen explorer of ethics and decision making on both a personal and an international scale, Rugger Burke.

With an extensive background in private equity law, Rugger has decided to share the wisdom that he has gained from his vast experience as a dynamic business leader by inspiring others to acquire what he regards as “arguably the most important skill in life: learning how to make good choices”.

Lois: Good day Rugger, and thanks so much for participating in our interview. First of all, may I congratulate you on the immediacy and accessibility of The Power of 10: A Practice of Engaging Your Voice of Wisdom (Mill City Press, Inc., 2015). From the very first page you had me hooked. You have a very direct approach, which is all the more surprising seeing your legal background.

Rugger: Thank you so much. You are very kind.

Lois: Your memoir is billed as inspirational. What is the core learning experience that you would like your audience to internalize from your text?

Rugger: The Power of 10 is about greatness and how to engage your voice of wisdom in pursuit of greatness.

The beginning point is defining “greatness.” Greatness is not about succeeding; it’s about being the best you. Being the best you may have a scope as large as the entire world or as small as a single person you love with all your heart. To be great simply entails choosing to live into your potential instead of living within your perceived limitations.

The obvious question then is “what is my highest potential?” And here’s the trick: only you know. In other words, greatness is measured on an individual scale. That’s where the voice of wisdom comes in. The voice of wisdom is the one voice, among the many inside you, that knows your full potential. Moreover, as you engage your voice of wisdom it guides you toward fulfilling your potential through making the right choices.

Just imagine living into your potential each day. How would that feel? Not only healthy and happy, but vibrantly alive. This holds true whether you lead an organization or you’re thinking about your family or children.

Lois: Who do you see as being your primary target audience?

Rugger: A proponent of the book Good to Great or subscriber to The Wall Street Journal who is interested in The Power of Now or The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, but put off by the surrounding mystique. Someone seeking purpose, connection, increased awareness, even greatness, but uninterested in what appears as quasi-religious, spiritual psychobabble.

The possible readers span from a high achiever beginning their career and wondering if they are on the right path to the seasoned leader who has enjoyed years at the top, but has a nagging sense that life’s purpose encompasses something more than mere financial success.

Lois: You appear to have been disheartened by the experience of being a lawyer, despite the material accoutrements that it provided. However, others who have been equally disenchanted by working in the legal environment have opted for the social justice route. What made you decide not to take a similar path?

Rugger: One of the exercises in the book is on finding your purpose. It’s essentially answering three questions: (1) What are my greatest talents?, (2) How can I put these talents to use for helping others?, and (3) Which of these activities do I enjoy the most? In asking these of myself, the answer became clear that my path was business.

Business provides a powerful force for change in the world. Looking around the institutions that most influence our lives, we can see businesses are at the top of the list. Conscious businesses operate ethically on voluntary exchange, create value for all stakeholders, and have the potential to act nobly, to the extent that they lift people out of poverty and create prosperity.

The firm where I work was founded on the principles of Conscious Capitalism. Our stated purpose is to create, fund, and inspire businesses that elevate humanity. Yoking together the rigors of business with the intention to bring about positive change is powerful. And witnessing the benefits delivered to each of our stakeholders (from being a designated best place to work, to creating jobs, to investments we make into our community), I believe this is the best way for me to bring about the kinds of change that social justice aims to accomplish.

Lois: With your world seeming to collapse around you (what with your career change, your mother’s battle with cancer, and the end of your marriage), what was the main tenet underlying your approach to life that kept it all together for you?

Rugger: Suffering is like a cloud of darkness. But even in the darkness you can often distinguish points of light. To me, those points of light are beauty, truth, and good. And when you focus on the light, more light appears. So here’s the challenge: wherever you encounter a place of darkness, fill it with light. Of course at times I didn’t feel up to the challenge. In such times, I would take walk outside and be reminded by the power of the sun.

Lois: What do you believe makes your book unique, and how do you believe that it stands out from the many self-help books that are already on the market?

Rugger: I’ve had the good fortune to be exposed to wonderful teachers and travel the world, but nothing like this exists. I searched, trying everything from a 10-day silent meditation retreat in Japan to a yearlong leadership program. Along the way, I read innumerable books ranging from the oldest texts of wisdom traditions to the latest primers on leadership in the age of artificial intelligence. There are lots of good books out there, each with something to offer. But I don’t think any provide a concise, integrated approach to what is arguably the most important skill in life: learning how to make good choices. So the book was born out of this need.

Lois: Your visualizations are very clear and self-explanatory, providing a learning experience without being didactic in your approach. Where did you learn to write so well?

Rugger: You are kind. In part it stems from a background in law. I served as lead counsel in significant number of jury trials and other matters. Being a good trial lawyer requires reducing complex concepts to the simplest terms. And stories often provide a good medium for delivering the message. In writing the book, I charted what was for me new territory.

In doing, so I needed to translate the concepts into terms that I could understand. So in effect it was a product of training coupled with a desire to learn.

Lois: The philosophical depth of your work is extremely enlightening. As you have chosen not to reference your sources extensively in this regard, and rather to adopt a more personal approach to your audience, which is commendable for its directness, whose philosophies do you, in fact, find seminal to your work?

Rugger: I take in information best through reading, so most of the influences are authors. Those authors revolve primarily around three sources: business leadership, adult education, and mindfulness. For example, Jim Collins’s books (Good to Great and Built to Last) on business prompted me to explore what motivated great leaders (hint: they love their work).

Ken Wilber’s thoughts on integral theory (A Brief History of Everything) and Robert Kegan’s (In Over Our Heads) models of change challenged me to think about how we can continue to grow throughout the course of our lives, and Jon Kabat-Zinn’s research into mindfulness (Full Catastrophe Living) offered practices that I continue to follow today.

Lois: Your major focus is on right choice making. However, what of external forces that limit one’s choice―do you show how to contend with these?

Rugger: It’s true, we can’t change the people in our environment or our place in history any more than we can change the weather. But even in the most highly regimented of routines, such as when we’re in school or at work, we still have a large degree of choice. We can almost always find a way to enjoy our work. For example, we might choose to write that report on a sunny park bench instead of in a stuffy cubicle on the twentieth floor. We can choose to team up with a co-worker who pushes us to improve or makes us laugh. Or we might simply play a game—try to break a record and set some personal best.

Even if the work itself is truly unpleasant, we can choose to focus on the rewards of doing it well—and on the promise of a vacation, a bonus, a promotion, or maybe even just keeping a roof over our (and our loved ones’) heads. Ultimately, however, the difference between going through the motions and inspiration is in our attitude toward what we do; the way we relate to our activities determines the speed, quality, and enjoyment of any task. And how we related to anything we do is our choice.

Lois: In a somewhat lighter vein, noting that you have a canine companion, what role do you find pets play in your life?

Rugger: Animals have served a steadying force in my life. I’m an only child and my first dog was Zibber. He could be described as half collie, half shepherd, but he was more than that. He was like a brother; we grew up together. And when he died, so did most of my childhood secrets. My current companion is a border collie who just passed the 15 mark. Her name is Peaches, but she prefers Superdog.

She’s a role model not only for presence, but also for commitment and unconditional love. By offering these freely, she inspires them in me. There is also a healthy dash of mischievousness in there too. She’s always plotting something, like how to catch a squirrel or wrangle some treats out of a stranger.

Lois: The power of love is central to your work, yet love is essentially selfless, while business tends to be self-centered. How do you reconcile the two, and advocate that others do too?

Rugger: It’s funny: walk into any dry cleaners or bank and you’ll likely find a sign saying: “We love our customers.” But outside the marketing department, most people shy away from the word in a business environment. “Love” is one of those words that we fear in the public realm, so we turn it into a cliché. But what is a stronger motivator than love? Nothing.

While Jim Collins, who authored Good to Great, and others make a good case that the best leaders demonstrate both professional will and personal humility, what they often leave unanswered is what motivates them. But we don’t need to conduct a study to figure it out. Anyone who cares deeply about their work already knows the answer.

What motivates great leaders—truly all “great” people—is love. That is the secret that no one wants to say out loud: what makes a great leader is not that they are great at running a company, but that they infuse their leadership with love. While a company may need the love of its leader to be great, more often than not, the leader needs the company to pour his or her love into for their greatness to be revealed.

Lois: Thanks once again, Rugger. You’ve really inspired me to take a deeper look at my own decision making in future. May you come to inspire many others, too.