Archive for November, 2008

Greed kills man

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

A crowd of bargain hungry New York shoppers trampled a Walmart store worker yesterday in their anxiety to grab a bargain at 5am!  200 people took the doors off the hinges as they rushed in, trampling the man to death and knocking over a pregnant woman at the same time. 

Apparently very early morning sales following Thanksgiving are something of  tradition and this was not the only incident of this kind on so called ‘Black Friday’, which has something of black reputation of this kind of episode.  I know that there is a financial crisis  but this seems to epitomise the very worst of the consumer society.

We all have dreams and things that we want in our lives but the unfettered drive to have rather than to be is one of the banes of the consumer society.  Time for a change?

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”   Frederick Keonig

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed”   Mahatma Gandhi

Whose fire is it anyway?

Friday, November 28th, 2008

We hear an awful lot of talk about executives who are so busy rushing around fire-fighting, and I have one client whose genius (and even joy) is their ability to deal with these spontaneous combustions.  The thing is, if your time is fully occupies extinguishing fires, then there is little or no time for reflection, planning or real leadership. 

However, if the fires that occupy all your time are all created by others, and all you do is put them out, then what are they learning?  Do they see and feel the consequences of their mistake, do they build their skill at dealing with fires?  Sometimes before you reach for the wellies, fire-hose and helmet, ask “Whose fire is it anyway?”  Follow that up with :-

  • “What is the worst that could happen?”
  • “Is this the best use of my time?”
  • “What are the alternative?” 

“Fire is never a gentle master”

“Among the notable things about fire is that it also requires oxygen to burn – exactly like its enemy, life.”  Otto Weininger

What Mumbai teaches us

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

PODCAST [click to listen] – What we can learn from the attacks on Mumbai

Yesterday, in Mumbai, hundreds of people who were quietly living their lives found their world turned upside down when Islamic extremists attacked the city in up to  17 coordinated incidents.  As many as 100 people are dead and hundreds were involved.  Hotels were burnt, people were terrorised.  For some this was a blow for freedom, but for so many others their world is no longer as safe or as predictable.  They will marked for life by their experiences.

As human beings, we need to know that if we do X that Y is the likely consequence.  If external agencies intervene and introduce a random chaos factor, how are we to gauge what is safe, and what is not?  We invest our time and money in things that seem sensible and safe, but if this equation is disrupted, how are we to choose?

Change sometimes is forced on us by outside agencies and we are forced to reevaluate.  I wonder if they could wind the clock back 24 hours what choices those who were involved might have made differently had they known?  Would different things have seemed important to them?  We are sitting safely at home saying “Dreadful!”  We still have a real choice about what is really important to us….

“The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”  Stephen R. Covey

“Success is only another form of failure if we forget what our priorities should be.”   Harry Lloyd

Rapid Progress?

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

As something of a champion of Change, you maybe somewhat surprised by the tone of this blog, but it occurred to me today when discussing the general state of health and well-being of our people that there is an interesting alternative perspective on change.  Consider this:  five hundred years ago I would have done the same job as my father and his father before him.  I’d probably have lived in the same house, in the same village.  Everything I ate would come from the same gene stock as what they ate.  Very little would change from generation to generation;  no change, no progress.  These days not only does it rapidly change generation to generation but decade to decade!

Of course I am not arguing that this is necessarily a bad thing.  There are millions alive today who would not be if not for progress.   However, if I have a 200 mph Porsche and speed off down the motorway in the wrong direction, I will get lost much better and much sooner than the little old man who is walking. 

I wonder if some of the apparent progress has price tickets that will only become clear in years to come and just how long it will take us to make good our mistakes and oversights?  

For Change to be a good thing one has to bear in mind what is really important and what one is trying to achieve in the long haul.  Today’s shortcut could be Tomorrow’s nightmare….

“The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.”  Oliver Wendell Holmes

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”   Albert Einstein

If you don’t like the way the game is going, change the rules!

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Yesterday the chancellor announce a suite of new measures to change the way the economy is heading, reducing VAT rates, talking about new Income Tax bands, deferring car tax increases.  Things which were unthinkable a little while ago are now happening!  Political parties are having to quickly revisit long-held beliefs and search for the real underpinning values and separate them from mere policies.

Today maybe a good day for you to consider what is really important and what is just a way to get it.  If you aren’t enjoying the results you are getting, it is time for you to change the rules too!

“My doctrine is not a doctrine but just a vision. I have not given you any set rules, I have not given you a system.”   Buddha

“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”   Albert Einstein


Article: Who sets the rules

Food Glorious Food…

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

I was talking about food and nourishment with someone today and that got me thinking about what it is we need to feed and nourish ourselves.  What is it that you need to feel good, healthy, well?  What do you do to ensure that you feed the inner soul?  Existing is one thing; living is a much more dynamic state.

“The belly rules the mind.”  Spanish Proverb

“If we’re not willing to settle for junk living, we certainly shouldn’t settle for junk food.”  Sally Edwards

“Tell me what you eat, I’ll tell you who you are.”  Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

I’m a celebrity… part 2… Grrrr!

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Tonight’s little anthropological insight was about territoriality.  They brought two new people in yesterday who didn’t handle their entrance to the group very well.  and triggered the group’s territorial instincts.  New groups are observed to go through four phases:-

  • Forming [where the group is being careful and relatively polite and cautious]
  • Storming [where they start vying for position]
  • Norming [when they establish a natural pecking order]
  • Performing [where they can work effectively together]

If someone enters a group they change the chemistry and dynamics and this sends the group of in another micro-iteration of this process.  Interestingly, the viewing public recognised and responded to the inappropriate cues and ‘judged’ the malefactors and put them in the ‘trial’.

“The well-run group is not a battlefield of egos.”   Lao Tzu

I’m a Celebrity… you can see me!

Friday, November 21st, 2008

About this time of year I am afraid that Cooke Towers impressive media suite is taken over by gaffawing women who cackle with glee as minor ‘celebs’ are tortured for the nation’s entertainment with kangaroo testicles and critters that bite.  I can not pretend not to be rapidly drawn into these so called reality TV shows as I love watching people behave as they do.

The thing that seems so clear to me this year is that people are so very transparent and that the public respond better to those who they feel are being genuine, even if they are being genuinely stupid!  People who play games are judged and tortured for the viewers’ entertainment. 

I know that this is far removed from real life in so many ways but I think our desire to have people ‘be themselves’ is a very deep one, and so too is our ability to see through manoeuvrings.   The thing is, in the world of work, we often don’t get any real choice about who tells us to do what, but we do control how much of ourselves we give in response to them.  Real leaders don’t try to manoeuvre people, despite office politics.  They do what they believe to be right; they tell the truth as they see it and  say how they feel.  We may not like or even agree with these messages but we will be inclined to trust them. 

So rule number 1 of authentic leadership is “Don’t be clever, be true”


“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”  Mark Twain

“Truth is the most valuable thing we have, so I try to conserve it.”  Mark Twain

“A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent.”  William Blake

A day at the museum

Thursday, November 20th, 2008


We had a fabulous visit to the V&A Museum today to see the jewellery exhibition.  It showed work from Greek, through till the present day.  It was just incredible to see the workmanship, and because it was made in gold and precious stones, much of it looked undiminished by the passage of time.  I found it profoundly moving to see these expressions of human endeavour and artistry.  I loved the art nouveau collection and especially some of the enamelled Lalique work..

It made me wonder how often we offer the World the very best of ourselves?  I know that we are not all master-craftsmen, but when we really engage with our work and give of our best, without compromise something special happens.  It is good for the soul to rise to a challenge and excel.  When was the last time you felt you were totally fulfilled creatively?

“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”  John Ruskin

“The great and glorious masterpiece of man is to know how to live to purpose”  Michel de Montaigne

Autumn Leaves

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

Like many other folks today, I was out with the rake and wheelbarrow moving away barrow upon barrow of fallen leaves.  I love this time of year; I love the colours, and the sound of the leaves under foot.  I love the light when we get some autumn sun.

The trees withdraw the useful sugars from the leaves and stop the ‘feed’ to the leaves which provokes the fall and the change of colour. 

It made me wonder what we could let go of, having taken all that is valuable to us from it?  Those things that no longer feed you, that take more from you than you can support.  maybe today is a good day to let go and enjoy the feeling of release and lightness.

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond the winning.”   Lao Tzu

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”   Thich Nhat Hanh