Archive for July, 2008

JK Rowling’s speech to Harvard

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

This is a repost of J.K. Rowling, author of the best-selling Harry Potter book series, delivers her Commencement Address, The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination ,” at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association.  I do so because it is worthy of listening to.

She talks about the importance of imagination, and how she learnt from and transmuted failure into worldwide success; two critical lessons for us all.  She speaks movingly about learning from failure and even the importance of failing.  I do urge you to watch this, and then emulate her bravery.

Blocks & Barriers

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Recently I have been suffering from a small ear blockage, which has reduced my hearing in one ear down to about 50% or so. It is intermittent and not serious and will soon be dealt with, but despite all this, I have found it strangely troubling. Apart form the very mild buzzing it creates, it seems to also build an invisible wall around me and I just feel the need to retreat behind it. It sounds silly and if anyone else were to say this to me I would probably think they were being daft! It is odd how such a tiny thing can become a literal barrier between me and the world.

I can rationalise it as being about the increased difficulty of communicating becomes ‘too much work’, but whilst it certainly requires more effort and determination, that really isn’t it. I can remind myself how lucky I am that it is so small and merely temporary and remember those poor people who suffer more serious forms of deafness. However the knowing and understanding does not alter my subjective state one jot. I feel like the sun has gone behind a cloud.

Of course we all erect and use barriers all the time; “If I ignore him, I can pretend I didn’t see him…” “I’ll pretend I never heard her…” “I’m not in…” and they have valid social usages, but there are also those ones we hide behind, ones that make us smaller than we really are, ones that keep us locked up when the world wants us to come out and play.

Mine is being dismantled tomorrow, but today might be a good day for you to take down and destroy some of your own barricades and let the world see just who you really are…

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Jalal ad-Din Rumi

“You cannot be wimpy out there on the dream-seeking trail. Dare to break through barriers, to find your own path.” Les Brown


Monday, July 14th, 2008

Isn’t this a much used word these days? Internet security, home security, wifi security, personal security, National Security! We are constantly being warned to be aware of ever-present dangers and to protect ourselves against them. We install dead-bolts, alarm systems, firewalls, encryption, MI5 and accept having to take our shoes off at airport check-ins all in the name of security. Now I am not suggesting for a minute that we should not be aware of these dangers and take sensible precautions against them. However, when we get to a stage where, as a country, the laws we pass curtail our liberties and restrict our rights under the law to the extent that they have, one has to wonder. I would also link it to our obsession with Health & Safety: the other day I heard someone seriously referring to dropped rubber bands as a safety hazard!

In life nothing is certain, and one of the key adaptive skills we have as a race, and we develop as individuals, is our ability to handle sudden and unexpected things, some good, some bad. However, these are just labels, and often we can have some of our very best experiences as a result of an initial ‘bad’ event.

It is only human to want to be and feel secure. However, learning to manage successfully in a world that is intrinsically insecure is a true life skill and we should not be insulated from developing this. It is a bigger version of not allowing our kids to play in playgrounds in case they fall over. Of course they will fall over, we all did just that and yet here we are today…

Some people enjoy the thrill of a little danger, and that is great; but for those of us who are wired differently, I would still suggest that we don’t overdo the whole security thing… maybe today is a good day to take a risk.

“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.” Alan Cohen

“There is no security on this earth. Only opportunity.” Douglas MacArthur

I believe pt 2

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

I believe that we all have a purpose, or perhaps, more accurately, a raft of purposes designed to take us where we are meant to go.  A few lucky people seem to always have been in touch with theirs, for others it unfolds gradually, culminating in something like an “AhHa” moment.  Some of our purpose is fulfilled in how we live our lives, the rest is made up of what we do.

I guess the $64,000 question is “Is what you do, and how you do it aligned with yours?”

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”  Peter Drucker

“But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it’s better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you’re fighting for.”  Paulo Coelho

The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”  Robert Byrne

I believe..

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

I turned on the radio the other day and heard an old hit from the 60’s “I believe” by the Bachelors and whilst it is rather schmaltzy it got me thinking. We are all governed by a set of deeply ingrained beliefs about things like how safe the world is, how it operates, peoples essential nature etc and these beliefs drive much of our behaviour. If you think that the world is fundamentally unsafe then you are constantly scanning for danger and often in a state of pre-flight/fight in case you need to escape or attack. If you believe it is a dog-eat-dog world, then you are probably expecting everyone you meet to be conning you and so find trust difficult.

I’ll be honest with you; I think this is not only a crucial area, but one I find hard to get to grips with. I know there are people out there who think that we can choose our beliefs, and perhaps some people can, but I find that hard to credit. There are others who feel they have tools to alter our beliefs and I have had some fascinating conversations about this subject with them. I suspect that our beliefs come from our upbringing and our experiences; the former are hard to shed without sufficient of the latter that contradict these early messages.

We may not find this an easy area to change, but I think that it is crucial that we take stock of our beliefs and understand the behaviours that they drive, because, make no mistake, they are very powerful. Knowing where they drive us gives us some element of choice about our responses.

I would love to hear from you about your beliefs on this subject and your experiences.

“Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it.” Andre Gide
“Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.” Paraphrased from Buddah

These kids are incredible!

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

I went to Godalming College exhibition of student art for probably the 4th year running today.  Once again I was simply stunned by the quality of the work.  I can’t remember when I last went into a professional gallery and enjoyed myself or the work as much.    The level of creativity, inventiveness and sheer quality is incredible.  There were rows of life sized bodies & head casts in fibre glass (it turns out my son was the model), cling film babies, wire models of dinosaurs, A whole shed decorated with graffiti and words, some fabulous animations (my son’s brilliant effort is here.)  You can see some of their work here (though this hardly does them justice!)

As I said, 4 years running I have been almost moved to tears by the work they create and wonder what happens to all this talent, creativity and inventiveness when they arrive in the workplace.  Do we encourage and harness it or bury it?  I feel sure that given the right encouragement and teachers, the kids we keep hearing about wielding knives on London’s streets are no less capable of this kind of creativity.

What do we need to change to make the best of them and their talents?

Going with the Flow, or should you be a little boulder?

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

We have all heard of the expression “Go with the Flow”, it suggests aligning your self with the energy and allowing it to carry you along. I think there is much wisdom in this philosophy particularly when it is the Universal Energy you align with. Doing this can take you where you should be, bring you what need, support you and energise you.

However, it has a second usage and that is suggesting going along with the people around you, not making waves, being one of the gang. Now I’m sure there are times when this is a good thing too, but if they aren’t going where you need to be, or doing things that support you and align with your values and principles, then perhaps it is better to be a little boulder / bolder and do what is right for you. This takes courage and strength of character but it is crucial to know when to just say “No thanks!”

So if today finds you in a quandary whether to go along or stay where you are, take a moment to dial into whether it feels right for you. Taking a little time, finding a little silence allows us to find our inner guidance and wisdom.

“Everything in the universe has a purpose. Indeed, the invisible intelligence that flows through everything in a purposeful fashion is also flowing through you.” Wayne Dyer

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” Lao-Tzu

Carrots or Sticks?

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

The shadow chancellor, George Osborne, is suggesting that the conservatives may adopt a successful American ploy of rewarding people for recycling. Apparently a number of US cities have introduced this measure with great success. Rewarding people for recycling changes behaviour and the poorest citizens suddenly become green, instead of it being the preserve of the middle classes. The reward is paid for in the savings in landfill charges so everyone wins; the environment, the poor, and the city! It feels a much more palatable proposal than fining us for throwing away too much or putting chips in our bins.

I think it provides an interesting insight into the human psyche; give us a positive motivation for doing something and we will probably comply; threaten and punish us if we are ‘bad’ and we seek to avoid and evade. Successful change, whether it is at a corporate or personal level requires a positive incentive to make that step. If you are trying to bring about a change in your own life, like perhaps shed the odd pound or two, or get fitter, then find something besides the end goal that makes you feel good about it. Notice how much better you are looking now, how much more comfy those trousers are etc.

What motivates you to do something different?

“Really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great.” Mark Twain


“I didn’t know I had a choice…”

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

I heard myself uttering these words last night as I was talking to my wife. We had just had a small job done resiting an unsightly power cable at no cost whatever. We had lived with this eyesore for 15 years and I had no idea that all that was required was a call to the utility company and a little man came around and shifted it. She said to me “That sounds like a good topic for a blog to me“….

The thing is, we go through our lives moving along a well-trodden path, often looking neither left nor right, a bit like rats in a maze that have been well conditioned as to where to find their food. There are so many alternatives out there that we no longer see, even more that are there for the finding if only we thought to ask some simple questions. Questions are mighty powerful things and they can bring all sorts of serendipitous events into our lives. “Seek and ye shall find, ask and ye shall receive

Today might be a great day to ask a few questions, create some new options, make a new choice….

“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” Anthony Robbins
“Study a lifetime and you see different colours from the same jewel. The same questions, asked again, being you just the answers you need just the minute you need them.” Richard Bach

Locks & Keys

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Maybe it is was because we had new doors fitted on Saturday, but when someone mentioned “locks” yesterday it got me thinking. Of course we expect doors to have locks and very useful they are too… as long as we also have a suitable key. The thing is locks can keep our precious things safe and allow us to control who comes into our private spaces. However, I’m sure I am not the only one to have mislaid or broken a key and then the lock becomes a barrier that is coming between us and something we need to access. Worst of all are those hidden locks on bits of us that we have buried and thrown away the key in the hope that we never have to face them again!

We all have some dark places and ‘bugaboos’ that we don’t wish to visit or deal with. It is perfectly appropriate to bury something and mark it “To be dealt with when I am strong / wise enough” or “For detailed attention on another day when I really have the time to deal with this properly” . Unfortunately like pirates and their treasure we often never come back to these buried ‘chests’ and we just carry them round as so much baggage, a bit like Jacob Marley’s ghost.

Perhaps today is a very good day from exploring those encumbrances and baggage and turning them into what they really are… buried treasure. These are bits of us, often the very best and delicate parts are part of us, and need reclaiming. Unlock them. Show them the light of day. Throw away that that key… you don’t need it any more. Good Luck.

“It’s just a ride and we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money, a choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one.” Bill Hicks

“A soulmate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other.” Richard Bach