Saturday, June 16, 2007

Experiencing Afresh the Joys of Living

A woman, who throughout her lifetime had cultivated a wonderful garden, became blind. The fact that she was not able to see and enjoy the beauty of her flowers somehow added to her bitterness.

Her husband devised a way to bring the garden back again. He took out all the plants that were there for their appearance and he replaced them with plants that had a stunning fragrance.

So, out with the asters and in with the thyme.
Out with the pansies and in with the lavender.
Out with the rhododendrons and in with the roses, the stocks and the carnations.

The blind woman had her garden again and her husband had the joy of giving it to her.

In times of suffering and loss we do not always have our faculties or fortune restored, yet there are sometimes secret stairways established through which we can experience afresh the joys of living.

Geoff Pound

Image: “In with the roses…” Breathe in the aroma.

Friday, June 15, 2007

US Presidency: Qualities Needed in a Leader

The recent debates for the American Presidential nomination are revealing some important leadership qualifications.

We might all vote for a different gift mix and quality set whenever we vote for a leader but there are some popular leadership requirements emerging:

Wet Feet
After the early ‘crush’ with Barack many devotees are reaching the conclusion voiced by African American, Harry Murphy, who said that Obama “needs to get his feet a little wetter.” For key leadership positions people like freshness and vitality but the untried neophytes are overlooked in favor of those with more experience under their belts.

Tortoise Features
The almost contradictory tortoise-like features of a hard shell and a soft body offer a desirable combination. A smiley, warm, nice guy countenance is a help but the soft, vulnerable heart seems more important and genuine. This was supremely evident when John and Elizabeth Edwards announced the news of her breast cancer which followed the tragic death of their son Wade. Hilary Clinton also demonstrated vulnerability when fielding questions about the difficulties of coping with her husband’s infidelity.

But Hilary has also exhibited a toughness that has been tested like steel through fire. Joe Mazzarese, a United Auto Works organizer, highlighted this gift when he said about Clinton, “If I was going to get into a fight, even in a war, I’d want her in my corner.” Years in the White House as partner of the President, stacks up as runs on the scoreboard of experience.

Obvious scars might be things that a plastic surgeon might want to erase but for potential leaders scars are valuable marks that attest to strength, courage and the ability to handle pressure. Sometimes these are literal scars won in battle or heroic adventure. Other times the emotional scars have been won in leading people through catastrophes like 9/11 and its aftermath.

Wet feet, warm demeanor, vulnerability, toughness, inner steel, battle scars—yes, all wanted in the one person. It’s not much to ask of a leader.

Geoff Pound

For an article that sparked this posting see Ronald Brownstein, ‘The Tough, but vulnerable, front-runner,’ LA Times, 13 June 2007.

Image: Leadership Possibilities.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

An Announcement for Wimps

A young man was dreading having to visit his dentist.

When he arrived at the clinic the receptionist asked for his name. He told her but then whispered nervously, “My middle name is ‘Wimp’!”

Later the receptionist came into the crowded Waiting Room, looked at the man and said out loud: “The dentist will now see the wimp!”

As he stood he was rather embarrassed and surprised. But he was even more startled when three other people stood up with him!

The need for courage is more common than we think.

Geoff Pound

Image: Take a seat.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

You're Welcome—or Are You?

The organization Discover America has been undertaking some research on the openness of Americans to those who are new, strangers, foreigners or aliens.

This study has been undertaken because the U.S. entry process has created a climate of fear and frustration that is turning away foreign business and leisure travelers from visiting the United States – and damaging America’s image abroad.

The research, conducted by independent polling firm RT Strategies, and based upon a survey of more than 2,000 travelers worldwide, sought to gauge traveler perceptions of the U.S. visa and entry process, and how opinions of America differ among those that have and have not visited the U.S.

Among the study’s key findings:

* The U.S. entry process is considered the “world’s worst” by travelers.
* Travelers rate America’s entry process as the “world’s worst” by greater than a 2:1 margin over the next-worst destination area.
* 54 percent of international travelers say that immigration officials are rude.
* Travelers to the U.S. are more afraid of U.S. government officials than the threat of terrorism or crime.
* Two-thirds of travelers surveyed fear they will be detained at the border because of a simple mistake or misstatement.

Unfortunately, perceptions of a ‘rude’ and ‘arrogant’ entry process are turning away travelers and harming America’s image.”

The study revealed that, by deterring visitors, the U.S. is missing an enormous economic and diplomatic opportunity. The good news is:

* Those that have visited the U.S. and interacted with the American people are 74 percent more likely to have an extremely favorable opinion of the U.S.
* 63 percent of travelers feel more favorable towards the U.S. as a result of their visit.
* 61 percent agree that, once a person visits the U.S., they become friendlier towards the country and its policies.

The report concluded that minor changes in the U.S. treatment of foreign business and leisure travelers would yield substantial gains

It is easy to understand the need for greater vigilance in the U.S. following the terrorist attacks several years ago but heightened security does not necessarily need to be accompanied by rudeness and unfriendliness.

In many religions, the attitude towards the foreigner is a key litmus test for identifying genuine goodness.

Zooming our focus down from the airport to the home and from an international survey to a personal reflection it is important to think of the level of hospitality we extend, especially to those of another culture.

Geoff Pound

Image: A welcome mat with mixed messages.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Andrea Mosconi: Keeping our Gifts in Tune

In Cremona, Italy, the city that has produced the best violins ever made, there is a man by the name of Andrea Mosconi who for the past 30 years, six days a week, has played 300-year-old violins, worth millions of dollars.

"I have to pay attention," the seventy-five year old musician said. "You have to give your best with these instruments. They make you sweat."

He had just finished playing a few lines of Bach on the most valuable piece in this town's small but significant collection of locally made stringed instruments: a violin made in 1715 by Antonio Stradivari.

Mosconi—starts his work at 8 a.m., an hour before the museum opens. He stores his tools in a tastefully concealed closet: two bows, resin, baby-soft cotton rags and jugs of distilled water for the humidifier that keeps the air at the perfect moisture to preserve the instruments.

Getting down to work, he carefully removes each instrument. He tunes them, then plays each for six or seven minutes. He starts with scales and arpeggios, then something more substantial.

"A great instrument should get great music and also a great performer," he said.

A violin needs to be played, just as a car needs to be driven. Just as our gifts need to be exercised to keep them in tune.

For the source and more detail on this story check this link:

Ian Fisher, Fingers of Italian, 75, keep most treasured violins fit, June 3, 2007, New York Times News Service

Image: Andrea Mosconi.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Henri Nouwen: The Wounded Healer

The Dutch teacher Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) is synonymous with the phrase ‘the wounded healer’, which is an apt expression for many to describe the way they attempt to go about their work or ministry.

Henri’s book entitled ‘The Wounded Healer’, draws it’s inspiration from this story, told in Henri's own words:

A well known story among the Hebrew people concerns a Rabbi who came across the prophet Elijah and said to him:

“Tell me—when will the Messiah come?”
Elijah replied, “Go and ask him yourself.”
“Where is he?” said the Rabbi.
“He’s sitting at the gates of the city,” said Elijah.
“But how will I know which one is he?”
The Prophet said, “He is sitting among the poor, covered with wounds. The others unbind all their wounds at the same time and bind them up again, but he unbinds only one at a time and binds them up again, saying to himself, “Perhaps I shall be needed; if so, I must always be ready so as not to delay for a moment.”

Henri Nouwen adds, “What I find impressive in this story are these two things: first, the faithful tending of one’s own woundedness and second, the willingness to move to the aid of other people and to make the fruits of our own woundedness available to others.”

Source: Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer (New York: Image, Doubleday, 1979)

Image: Henri Nouwen.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Punctuate Your Difficulties with Humor

It’s often hard to stay positive in testing circumstances.

One chap was in hospital and he was trying hard to ‘keep his chin up’.

A counselor visited him in hospital and the patient told how he was getting ready to undergo a very tricky bowel operation.

The counselor said, “You’re looking very bright and cheerful.”

The patient said with a twinkle in his eye, “I decided it was better to have a semicolon than to have a full stop.”

This is a variation of the cartoon where the surgeon is giving his report to the patient after the surgery and saying, “We saved your life. However, your colon is now a semicolon.” See cartoon.

Geoff Pound

Image: Semicolon

Friday, June 08, 2007

Prescription for Dealing with Frustrations

A man who took great pride in his lawn found himself one day with a horrible crop of dandelions.

He tried every method imaginable to get rid of them. One herbicide after the other but the dandelions still plagued his lawn.

Finally the man wrote to the Department of Agriculture telling them about his problem, listing all the things he had tried and putting his question in the finale: “What should I do now?”

A few days later he received the reply which was contained in this short sentence:

“We suggest that you learn to love them.”

Not a bad reply also for those situations that exasperate us and those weedy people who you can never get rid of. (I’m not thinking of anyone in particular! G£)

Geoff Pound

Image: Dandelions and lawns. Looking beautiful?!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Gandhi and Geldof: The Stages of Change

Pop singer and activist Bob Geldof and Irish rock star Bono were being interviewed today about some of their hopes and plans for this week’s meeting (6-8 June 2007) of the G8 leaders in Germany.

The two men are calling on G8 leaders for a reaffirmation of the 2005 commitment.

Bono fears the G8 nations offer too little help or may wriggle out of existing promises. Bob Geldof is urging G8 leaders to hold onto pledges they have made at the Gleneagles summit chaired by Tony Blair almost two years ago.

“There is a great crisis of credibility,” says Geldof, “If I sign a contract in my business life and don't fulfil it, I would be sued. I could go to jail. Do these leaders live outside the norms of human behaviour?" he asked.

Asked by a CNN interviewer today if he thought their protesting and activism about ending poverty served any benefit, Geldof replied positively:

Gandhi once said: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you....then you win.”

Source: CNN International, News, 7 June 2007

Geoff Pound

Image: Sir Bob Geldof

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Lesson in Joy: David Scholer

There’s a great story in today’s LA Times about a Professor who throughout his long career as a teacher of Scripture had puzzled over this text:

“Rejoice, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

“How can you rejoice in tragedy and sickness?” Dr David Scholer of Fuller Theological Seminary wondered.

Now Scholer has got incurable cancer, asthma, diabetes and arthritis and it’s as if he is being asked to sit this practical Scripture exam.

How is he doing?

Read the article and listen to how his students are evaluating David and Jeanette Scholer in the midst of this testing circumstance.

K. Connie Kang, ‘Rejoice Always’: A Lesson in Dying, LA Times, 5 June 2007.

Image: David Scholer.

You are Wasting Time! Or Are You?

Lisa Belkin tells that one of her favourite books as a child was “Cheaper by the Dozen,” the story of Frank B. Gilbreth Jr., who introduced the idea of efficiency to 20th-century America. His time-shaving techniques ran the gamut from a new way of laying bricks to a quicker method of buttoning his vest (bottom to top, saving four seconds).

“Inspired,” Lisa said, “I slept in my clothes for a few nights back then to save time dressing for school, though I don’t think that’s exactly what the man had in mind.”

Lisa goes on to state these terrifying facts:

* American workers, on average, spend 45 hours a week at work, but describe 16 of those hours as “unproductive,” according to a study by Microsoft.

* America Online and Salary.Com, in turn, determined that workers actually work a total of three days a week, wasting the other two.

* And “personal development expert”, Steve Pavlina, finds that we actually work only about 1.5 hours a day.

Now that you’re feeling guilty or upright because you’re not one of those time-wasting Yanks, here is a summary of the best time wasters that Lisa Belkin has gathered:

* The AOL survey says time is lost to surfing the Internet (so turn off your computer now, flagellate yourself and repent!)

* The Microsoft survey pointed to worthless meetings. Respondents said they spent 5.6 hours each week in meetings and 71 percent of them thought that those meetings “aren’t productive.” (Amen!)

* Searching through clutter is another diversion, says Peggy Duncan, a “personal productivity coach” in Atlanta, who maintains that rifling though messy desks wastes 1.5 hours a day. (Clean up that messy desk of yours!)

But wait, you say, you spend all your time working. Your boss is a slave driver. You’re the only one left in the office after the downsizing, meaning you are doing the work of three people. Well, there are numbers that also support this situation.

If you think it’s all about focus and not frittering the seconds, if you’re wondering whether you are working harder because you are wasting more time or wasting time because you are working harder, read the full article by Lisa Belkin. It won’t be a waste of time in the long run.

Lisa Belkin, ‘Time Wasted? Perhaps It’s Well Spent’, New York Times, 31 May 2007.

Geoff Pound

Image: This picture comes from the web site, ‘The Human Clock’. They are obviously a couple of Italians who have nothing better to do with their time than express a little bit of amore.

Check out the time right now on The Human Clock’. Watching this site is one of the great time wasters.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Hillary Clinton: A Theme Song for Your Life

It seems an unusual approach for a prospective leader to ask people to write your manifesto, but presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton has done that.

She is asking people to write her vision for her leadership of the USA in a song title.

Hillary Clinton asked YouTube viewers to vote on a theme song for her presidential campaign and here are some of the positive responses:

“I’m a Believer”
“Beautiful Day.”
“Rock This Country!”
“Suddenly I See.”
“Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.”
“You and I.”

Each video has been viewed on either YouTube or the campaign site more than 900,000 times, and more than 100,000 votes were cast in the first round. All this might be suggesting that Clinton is simply wowing her audience through YouTube or having some fun to giving ummph to the launching of her campaign.

But such a ploy has also given an opportunity for her detractors to get some air space. Some of her opponents suggested songs like these:

“Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.”
“Cold as Ice.”
“It’s the End of the World as We Know It.”
“Eve of Destruction.”

Hillary’s idea is challenging as it makes you think about the song title that would be the most appropriate for your life and work.

More information on this is written by Andrew Newman in ‘A Theme Song for Clinton,’ New York Times, 4 June 2007.

Geoff Pound

Image: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

The BBC’s Formula for Happiness

A new six-part BBC series entitled ‘The Happiness Formula’, that has started this month, looks at the newest research from around the world to find out what could it be that makes us happy.

Happiness is a slippery subject that means different things to different people but now scientists say they can actually measure happiness simply by asking people how happy they are.

The leading American psychologist Professor Ed Diener from the University of Illinois, told ‘The Happiness Formula’ that the science of happiness is based on one straightforward idea:

"It may sound silly but we ask people 'How happy are you 1-7, 1-10?’
"And the interesting thing is that produces real answers that are valid, they're not perfect but they're valid and they predict all sorts of real things in their lives."

"The measures are not perfect yet I think they are in many ways as good as the measures economists use," said Professor Diener.

Happiness seems to have almost magical properties and science suggests it leads to long life, health, resilience and good performance.

What makes us happy?
According to psychologist Professor Ed Diener there is no one key to happiness but a set of ingredients that are vital.
First, family and friends are crucial - the wider and deeper the relationships with those around you the better.

The second vital ingredient is having meaning in life, a belief in something bigger than yourself - from religion, spirituality or a philosophy of life.

The third element is having goals embedded in your long term values that you're working for, but also that you find enjoyable.

For more information on this subject and series see:
Mike Rudin, ‘The science of happiness’, BBC.

Image: Ed Diener, looking as if he possesses a happiness rating of 8 out of 10.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Reagan Diaries: Presidential Word about Forgiveness

Former first lady Nancy Reagan said she published her late husband's diaries so readers could learn more about the former U.S. president.

The Reagan Diaries, edited by historian Douglas Brinkley, are being published three years after Ronald Reagan death.

"I just thought that there was so much in this diary that people didn't know about Ronnie, and that they really should know about Ronnie," she told CNN's Larry King in an interview broadcast Thursday (31 May 2007).

"And for history's sake, it's so important," she said.

"He did not write it for history," Nancy Reagan said. "He wrote it for himself. As a matter of fact, he used all the material that was in the diary to write his autobiography. It would remind him of things."

Reagan said one thing most people do not know about her late husband is that he prayed for John Hinckley, the man who attempted to assassinate him in 1981.

"As I remember, he said, 'I can't ask for God to look after me if I am not ready to forgive this man,'" Nancy Reagan said.

Source: ‘Interview with Nancy Reagan,’ Larry King Live, CNN, 31 May 2007.

Image: Ronald Reagan

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Upside-Down Priorities

Here is the latest thing in ‘prophetic symbolism’.

This Topsy-Turvy bus (pictures) is currently touring the United States of America to dramatically depict America’s upside down priorities.

Art car artist Tom Kennedy and his crew built it by welding together two yellow buses, one upside-down on top of the other right side-up. Ben (Ben & Jerry's) Cohen hatched the idea with designer Stefan Sagmeister.

Further details about the bus and the tour can be found at:

Laughing Squid-Topsy-Turvy Bus Tours

Image: Topsy-turvy bus.

The Times They Are a Changin!

The great majority of the 60 departing LA Times journalists made their exits this week from the downtown Los Angeles headquarters, an exodus that is mirrored throughout the world in the newspaper business.

Rone Tempest, who has written about wars in the Middle East and the transformation of China, showed he still had a sense of humour when dispensing his final advice in his e-mailed sign-off on Friday.

"4 Career Life Lessons from a Retiring Hack," it read.

1) Never write a company-wide memo

2) In any foreign language the most important phrase is 'My friend will pay' as in French 'mon ami va payer' or Chinese 'Wo de pengyou yao mai le'

3) Given a choice, Bordeaux red

4) Never get killed for an inside story.

A full account of the LA Times exodus can be read at:
James Rainey, ‘The Times’ Changes Pick up Speed as Many Depart,’ LA Times, 2 June 2007.

Being Part of the Overwhelming Minority

In the days when Charles William Eliot was the longest ever President of Harvard University (1869-1909), a student did something wrong and was brought to the President’s office to be disciplined.

The President said to him, “Give me your excuses and your justification,” and he gave him a fair hearing.

The student used every possible excuse he could for his behavior and finally he burst out and said, “Why, sir, you know that there are not more than ten people on this campus who wouldn’t have done exactly as I did in these circumstances.”

The President looked at the student and said, “Did it ever occur to you that you might be one of the ten?”

Geoff Pound

Image: Charles William Eliot

Friday, June 01, 2007

Handling Life’s Treasures

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s book Treasure Island about finding riches, it is interesting to read the description Stevenson gives as to what the finders did with their portion.

In a deft sentence Stevenson writes:

“All of us had an ample share of the treasure and used it wisely or foolishly according to our natures.”

Stevenson meant that Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver went on being themselves and the kind of people that they were, determined what they did with what they discovered.

Treasure comes to us in a host of ways. It’s a sobering thing to consider what is determining how we use it.

Geoff Pound

Image: Treasure Island