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October 16, 2000Good Friends, Big Dreams, Civil Virtues

The best professionals, whether lawyers, or doctors, or architects, are much more than the sum of their skills. That's what makes them interesting.

Take Steve Burnett of New York City, a sponsor of our "Global Websites" domain on The Global Province. He puts together interactive (interactive means you can talk back and play) websites for the world's pre-eminent investment banks.

But that's not what makes him my friend.  His adventures give me vicarious thrills.  A biker on the web, he may be found riding his Harley into Colorado, catching fish in northern New York, chasing octopuses in the South Pacific, hiding out in Brazil, or tracking an expedition up Mount Everest. In some strange way, his clients have to hope they capture some of this big-league fantasy in the virtual stagecraft he arranges for them.

I think that we want friends like this with big dreams. Perhaps that is implicit in Stephen R. Ambrose's pleasant volume Comrades, Brothers, Fathers, Heroes, Son, Pals that we added to "Best of Class" this week. He includes a number of people with fine friendships and big dreams such as Lewis & Clark, Eisenhower and Patton.

How can we foster these kinds of friendships, since friendship, indeed, is what gets you through the long journey of life? One thought. We have found over the years that the Royal Bank of Canada--Canada's big bank--knows how to talk about the virtues that build friendship, not bigness. In this vein, we call to your attention this week's citation about the Royal Bank Letter--an exercise in values, rather than a brag sheet about accomplishments, or a demonstration of its vast economic insight. In the new age of company branding, we must talk more about how to make things better, less about how to make things more.

As a society, according to the letter, our quality of life is coming to depend on the quality of our leisure.  The question is, are we amusing ourselves to death?  When you contemplate all the triviata coming out of Wall Street's investment banks, it is a joy to receive a missive from a financial institution that knows how to act like number one.  If I remember correctly, this reflection goes out to 600,000 plus readers.  The secret of its success: in this letter, the bank talks engagingly about values, not boringly about itself.  Available also at www.royalbank.com/community.

So we all can cherish friends with big dreams, and a climate of friendship that can be nurtured by institutions that exude civic wisdom.

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