Archive for May, 2008


Saturday, May 31st, 2008


in·spired, in·spir·ing, in·spires
1. To affect, guide, or arouse by divine influence.
2. To fill with enlivening or exalting emotion: hymns that inspire the congregation; an artist who was inspired by Impressionism.

a. To stimulate to action; motivate: a sales force that was inspired by the prospect of a bonus.

b. To affect or touch: The falling leaves inspired her with sadness.

4. To draw forth; elicit or arouse: a teacher who inspired admiration and respect.
5. To be the cause or source of; bring about: an invention that inspired many imitations.
6. To draw in (air) by inhaling.
7. Archaic

a. To breathe on.

b. To breathe life into.

1. To stimulate energies, ideals, or reverence: a leader who inspires by example.
2. To inhale.
[Middle English enspiren, from Old French enspirer, from Latin nspire : to breathe.]

The other day I was blogging about the word Conspiracy, and this is another, related word that we bandy around a lot these days, Inspire.

It literally means to breathe in, so either meaning that we give life to something or cause the person to suck in their breath. It is a very vital, physical, emotional phenomenon, rather than just an intellectual one. It literally moves you. In order to move people you have to connect with them; which means that you have to be open and real too.

I find it pretty inspiring when I see people fully revealing themselves and offering it without stint, like in last night’s episode of ‘Beyond Boundaries, Across the Andes“, which I have blogged about before. Here there were myriad examples of people going way beyond their physical limits, working for each other, offering each other their support, their truths, their muscles and, when they had nothing else to offer, their presence.

Inspiration doesn’t come in a can, or off the shelf from some management bookstore. It lives and breathes in the human heart. I’d be interested to hear some examples of real inspiration from you.

“There are no failures – just experiences and your reactions to them.” Tom Krause
“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.” William Arthur Ward

Change is Good.. the movie

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Here is a good little video clip that is worth and watch (it only lasts a couple of minutes and contains some good reminders and some useful quotes.

It might trigger a timely thought or action…

The Opposite of Change

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Everyone seems to agree that Change is tough and challenging; that people tend to avoid it where possible.  Business leaders are supposed to drive it but can tend to prefer to avoid it where possible.   However, I don’t recall having ever heard anyone arguing that stagnation is good. 

The thing is that people and businesses are a in a constant state of flux, as humans we spend the first part of our lives growing up, then growing older and at some point this changes to becoming old.  Our products, our systems, out ideas all go through exactly this process.

Perhaps if we spent less time debating it and trying to ‘manage’ it, and a little more being it and becoming it, we might make a little more progress…. What do you think?

“I learned that the richness of life is found in adventure. . . . It develops self-reliance and independence. Life then teems with excitement. There is stagnation only in security.”   William Orville Douglas

It is a Conspiracy!

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

con·spire (kn-spr)

con·spired, con·spir·ing, con·spires


1. To plan together secretly to commit an illegal or wrongful act or accomplish a legal purpose through illegal action.

2. To join or act together; combine:

To plan or plot secretly.

[Middle English conspiren, from Old French, from Latin com + spirare, to breathe.]

Isn’t it strange how a word that originates from the Latin words meaning breathing together has evolved to mean something dreadful and fearful? English is like that; it grows and changes like the living thing it is. So we start with ‘breathing together’, and this gives us ‘acting together’ and then all of a sudden we are ‘plotting’!

We can mimic this process in our own minds. We see something, we don’t understand it and then we project our fears upon it and va-voom! They are talking about us! It / they are a threat! We can then live in that imagined ‘reality’ and build up our fear, which leads to hatred and suddenly our world has two more people who we don’t like, or another thing that we are afraid of.

Fear and ignorance do amazing things to us. They generate and project more images than a Hollywood studio!

Don’t let your fears and insecurities turn good things to neutral and neutral ones to bad…

“The complete lack of evidence is the surest sign that the conspiracy is working”

“The popularity of conspiracy theories is explained by people’s desire to believe that there is – some group of folks who know what they’re doing” Damon Knight

Evil Twins

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

I watched the start of a TV programme yesterday called ‘Jesus Camp’, about how some Americans are packing their kids off to right-wing Christian ‘holiday camps’ for the summer to turn them into little soldiers for Christ. Now I should say here and now that I only watched about 15 minutes of this, so this blog is inspired by what I saw, rather than about it. I found it pretty shocking. However, the thing that struck me most is how similar, when viewed from the outside, what they were doing was, with what they felt they were opposing!

Then it occurred to me that we often get apparently bent-out-of-shape by the thing we hate. Are we being distorted by this ‘dreadful’ thing, or is it the fact that we are looking into some kind of ‘dark’ mirror and disliking and attacking a reflection of ourselves. Certainly it is not unusual for us to dislike in others traits that others see in us!

Perhaps it is time for us to ask how what we are seeing points out where we need to act on us? Have you had any experiences like this and triumphed?


“The only service a friend can really render is to keep your courage by holding up to you a mirror in which you can see a noble image of yourself” George Bernard Shaw
“Behaviour is a mirror in which every one displays his own image”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

The other day our 2 year old tumble dryer stopped working. It only stayed on stayed on for as long as you stood there with your finger on the button, hardly an effective solution. As we are deep in the midst of a spend-fest, the obvious solution seemed to be to just replace it. After all what do you expect these days… longevity? I knew it would cost the best part of £100 to get out a ‘little man’, and who knew what he would say when he got here and it would only cost £200 to replace.

My wife (clever lady!) suggested I check the web for diagnostic information; so of course, I did. I soon discovered that I was not the only person with this problem; this switch seemed to be an Achilles heel of this model. I managed to find Hoover’s spare parts site, and found the very switch at the princely sum of £6.95. So I slide the thing out and took off the top, and it appeared it would just push in/out. So given that I had already accepted the idea of replacing it, I took my courage in my hands, and yanked it out. It was clear that even for a non-techie like me, it was the work of 5 minutes to replace it.

So why am I wasting your time with the domestic trivia? Well, this made me wonder how often we jump to a solution such as “Fire him!” or something else dramatic, like that, when, with a little more investigation, we could find a much more ecological solution. As humans we love drama, and tend, particularly when we are stressed, to jump for the ‘big solution’. However, sitting down and talking, listening, a little fact finding and pondering can often come up with a tiny intervention that maintains a much more even-keeled progress.

So if today, you are unlucky enough to encounter a problem, don’t jump to the first solution; pause, consider what else you could do. Ask others what they would do. Imagine what someone you admire might do. Walk around the problem and you may well find there is a much gentler path up the ‘mountain’. Good luck!

“Never let a problem to be solved become more important than the person to be loved.” Barbara Johnson

“Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.”

Silence is (sometimes) Golden

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Isn’t it fascinating how the same stimulus can cause totally different, polarised experiences? Since we had children one of the things that I love is driving with my wife, and after a while, we lapse into a companionable silence. There is absolutely no need to fill it and we both just sink into it like a warm bath.

Yesterday, we went out for a meal and whilst we had a nice time, I noticed that I was rather quiet, and absorbed in doing useful little jobs, happy to let the others ‘carry’ the conversation. However, had they not been there then I know there would have been a lot of rather uncomfortable silences. So what makes the one experience so positive and the other rather awkward?

I suspect it is something to do with:-

  1. The level of unconditional acceptance there is in the relationship, and
  2. The ability to say whatever you wish, should you choose to do so

If you are constantly trying to editorialise to find safe, acceptable things to talk about then that prevents the flow.

Acceptance is just about the greatest gift we can offer each other. To say, in effect, I see you, flaws and all, and accept you is hugely liberating and affirmative. The more spiritually elevated of us are able to do this for more of the people we encounter.

Whether it is in your home, or your family, at work, or just out and about, see if you can be a little more accepting and spread a little ‘gold’ around…

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” Mother Teresa

Zero expectations

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

I had a good day, yesterday.  I woke very early and feeling well rested, got up and set about a series of small clearing-up type jobs, which one normally puts off, but make you feel very virtuous once done.  The sun was shining, and I felt we owed it to ourselves to escape the mess and go somewhere nice for lunch.  So we went to a local pub, and sat out in the garden, stream running through it, and had a nice lunch.  My sister mentioned she had a dvd that she hadn’t yet watched and knew nothing about; did we want to pop over and watch it?

Clearly we couldn’t have had less information or expectations about it.  We knew the name of a couple of the actors, that was it, though neither were huge ‘names’.  To cut a long story short, it was fantastic, just perfect for us.  A lovely English movie,  a little akin to “Four weddings & a funeral”, but totally original.  We had to pause it at times to stop laughing!

Had we been given the kind of build up I’m now giving you, perhaps it would have been less special.  So as we drove off, I reflected on the joy of unexpected pleasures like this.  It is true of our relationships, and our experiences.  If we are able to go into them unburdened by expectations, ours or anyone else’s we tend to have a better experience.  I wonder how you deal with this issue, and where perhaps you find that expectations just constantly get in the way.

PS>>  I have deliberately not mentioned the title, so you can enjoy it the way I did, but should you really want to know, I have linked it below.

“Life is so constructed that an event does not, cannot, will not, match the expectation.”  Charlotte Bronte

“Unhappiness is best defined as the difference between our talents and our expectations.”  Edward de Bono


  1. Here it is

Handing over the Dosh

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

You may recall that Cooke Towers is having a bit of a refit, and, for the past weeks, that we have had more vans in our drive that a Transit dealership. They are all shiny and new and high spec’ vehicles, so times are good for Britain’s tradesmen.

I have been writing more cheques in the last month than I have done in the rest of the year. I was talking to my darling wife yesterday and we both had noticed an odd phenomenon; when we hand over the cheques which invariably seems to be £200 per day, plus vast amounts for materials, we both notice feeling an odd, almost visceral feeling in our guts, as if we are parting with something more vital than a bit of cash.

What an odd response! We all need money to live on, but it isn’t blood, and yet…. My body ‘knows’ it has roughly 8 pints of blood to keep it going and does a great job of not only keeping it in the right places, but it also repairs and renews it. Our bank balances seem to be altogether more fragile. They certainly don’t self-repair! And when you are running your own business one can never guarantee the income flow. So it leaves one feeling a bit like own is swimming underwater and hording precious oxygen.

The reality is, of course, this is part of a carefully planned strategy, and there really is no need for this kind of emotional response, but of course, our emotions make their own ‘decisions’. The trouble is that others can pick up these odd cues that we give off and feel that we are somehow unhappy with them or their work, and of course, this can lead to defensiveness and all sorts of counter-responses. The good ole Flight / Fight response is doing its job again.

By being aware of these emotional responses we can own them and communicate more ‘cleanly’ with others. Give it a go and see what happens…

“I have enough money to last me the rest of my life, unless I buy something.” Jackie Mason
“Money can’t buy friends, but it can get you a better class of enemy.” Spike Milligan

Plastered or just covering up the cracks..

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

You may recall that we are in the middle of a major reconstruction of chez Cooke. Yesterday the kitchen looked like down-town Beirut; our sad old walls were full of gaping holes where the tiles had been pulled off and the 70 year old plaster had fallen off the lathes. It was not a pretty sight. A plaster and his two mates then set to for a couple of days and begun making good. It now looks fresh, clean and youthful. However, in the same way you might wonder how you know that the fridge light goes off when you shut the door, I found myself wondering if the holes were still there under the plaster? I realise that in the ‘real world’ it is a nonsense question, but humour me.

So often in life we cover over the cracks, a little bit of filler here, a bit of paper there and no one will ever know… will they? Whether it be in a relationship with others or issues we would prefer not to face, keeping the surface pretty and neat is so much easier than facing the mess and chaos like we had!

Sometimes you just need to rip off all the old, worn-out dross and take it back to a solid structure and rebuild, in that sense there is little difference between our walls, a relationship or a business.

If you find yourself reaching for the ‘polyfiller’, maybe it is time to ask yourself if you need to get plastered too?

“There is a crack in everything God has made.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I couldn’t repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder”