Friday, June 20, 2008

Reading Obituaries with Pleasure

In a recent address Howard Batson includes this quote:

Clarence Darrow was so bold as to say, "I have never killed a person, but I've read many obituaries with great pleasure."

Batson continues, “That's a perfect portrayal of the sin of anger. Like Clarence Darrow, you and I have probably never killed a man. But how many times have we taken pleasure in their fall or their hardship? How many times have we been angry enough to wish that somebody didn't exist?”

Source: Howard Batson, ‘Above and Beyond’, 15 June 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Clarence Darrow

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tiger Wood’s Victory over Himself

Brian Clark at Copyblogger has a great story about the victory by Tiger Woods at last weekend’s US Open and the way his performance, amidst injury, revealed much about the champion’s character.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “performance, amidst injury.”

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Frightening Epitaph

A man once lamented the time he spent in meetings.

“I have this recurring nightmare,” he says. “My wife and five children gather at the cemetery for my funeral. At the close of the service, the funeral director approaches my weeping family and hands them a box containing all my earthly possessions. In the box are 35 years of my annual calendars and diaries. I read over their shoulders as they scan the appointment notes that kept me busy for so many years. It occurs to me how seldom anything of significance was ever accomplished at those gatherings. I turn to look at my tombstone. The epitaph reads, “Daddy has gone to another meeting.”

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “The epitaph reads…”

Gandhi Reflects on the Rose

Mahatma Gandhi would often say to Christians and missionaries:

“Don't talk about it. The rose doesn't have to propagate its perfume. It just gives it forth, and people are drawn to it. Live it and people will come to see the source of your power.”

Source: Mazhar Mallouhi, Gandhi’s Living Legacy in the Muslim World, IBMR, 1 April 2003.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “And people are drawn to it.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Stephen Covey: Running on Empty

Mobile Parable
Heading for the Melbourne airport to pick up my homecoming daughter and friends one evening, I listened to a superb address (via CD) by Stephen Covey entitled, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People."

Each habit was like a marker on the road that got me nearer to my destination:

Habit 1: Be Proactive
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Habit 4: Think Win/Win
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
Habit 6: Synergize

Half way along the final Freeway (the Tullamarine), Covey was extolling the virtues of the seventh and final habit—'Sharpen the Saw'.

No sooner had he illustrated the importance of self-renewal by speaking of the stupidity of those who drive with the petrol gauge on empty, when my car began to splutter. I switched my empty tank from gas over to petrol only to discover that the car continued to behave like a kangaroo having a fit! My gas tank I knew was empty but my petrol tank, I was discovering, was also empty!

I managed to exit the freeway but it was a late, red-faced, highly ineffective father, wreaking of petrol that had to give a pathetic explanation to four young women waiting at the airport.

Checking the Fuel Gauge
Since taking part in this parable, I've been more aware of people and myself when running on depleted reserves. Winter ailments, bleak days, meaningless arguments, screaming deadlines, a long Do List, heavy conversations and lack of clarity about the future are some of the things that chew up our energy fast.

Meandering meetings, conflicts over trivialities, loss of perspective, ‘spitting the dummy’ and blowing an emotional fuse can be the telltale signs that our tank is almost empty.

Fill 'Er Up!
Life and giving out to others is extremely demanding. I like the concept of doing things to fill up the emotional tanks of our children and other people. However, as we give out we are called to be attentive to our own energy levels. Taking time to fill up will mean different things for different people—leaving the desk or the bench and sinking into an armchair with a cuppa, making some sacred space in the midst of our work, turning off the talk back radio and listening to a symphony, curling up in bed with a novel, taking in a movie, playing a game of golf(?), walking along the river in the Springtime sun, booking a holiday....

How is your tank best filled?

What are some ways that you and your family might be replenished?

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Take a good look at this car. Someone was in so much of a hurry that they took off before the petrol hose had been properly removed.

Related:
Stephen Covey: How I Found my Calling, Discernment Resources
Stephen Covey: Coming Near with Understanding, Stories for Speakers and Writers

Bead Number 109

In many countries one sees followers of different religions with prayer beads in their hands, fingering them bead by bead.

I asked one man in a shop in Bahrain what it meant to him to carry the beads and he said, “Nothing really. They’re just a status symbol. Every man has them.”

However, for the devout the beads give a focus for their prayer.

Elizabeth Gilbert, in her best seller, Eat Pray Love, has adopted the idea of the traditional Indian prayer beads (japa mala) with their 108 beads and she has written of her ‘search for everything’ in 108 chapters. This is a literary method she employs to give her book structure and her ventures to Italy (for eating), India (for praying) and Indonesia (for balance) mean a nice even 36 chapters for each of these sections.

Gilbert in her introduction notes that the japa mala has a special extra bead that dangles outside the balanced circle of 108 like a pendant.

Gilbert says, “I used to think the 109th bead was an emergency spare like the extra button on a fancy sweater, or the youngest son in a royal family. But apparently there is an even higher purpose. When your fingers reach this marker during prayer, you are meant to pause from your absorption in meditation and thank your teachers.”

What a lovely thought. Even if you don’t buy your students some prayer beads, tell them about the wisdom of bead number 109. It is a wonderful gesture and a delightful discipline, that we all take regular pauses to be thankful for our teachers.

Source: Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything (London: Bloomsbury, 2006), 1-2.

This best selling book is reviewed at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Prayer Beads

Fragrance of Love’s Actions

Ann Smith, our member who began “Charlotte Food Rescue,” was hauling a station wagon full of donuts to a food shelter. She stopped off to make a pitch to executives of what is now Bank of America. As she rode the elevator to the top floor someone said, “You smell like donuts!” She laughed and told why, and by the time the elevator door opened she had recruited another.

The fragrance of love’s actions is carried on the wind to places we never see.

Source: Stephen Shoemaker, Myers Park, 21 October 2007

Image: “You smell like donuts!”

Henri Nouwen: Gift of a Free Space

When we think back to the places

where we felt most at home,


we quickly see that it was where


our hosts gave us the precious freedom


to come and go on our own terms


and did not claim us for their own needs.


Only in a free space can re-creation take place


and new life begin.


Henri Nouwen

Source: I cannot locate the book where this was first published but the themes of hospitality and freedom are in so many of Nouwen’s writings. I would be grateful if someone could provide the reference for this wonderful statement.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “Only in a free space can re-creation take place and new life begin.”

Related:
Henri Nouwen: The Wounded Healer, Stories for Speakers and Writers
Staying Alive when No One is Waiting, Stories for Speakers and Writers

Tim Russert: Journalism is a Vocation

CNN, on Larry King Live, had a special edition on the day (13 June 2008) that journalist Tim Russert died entitled ‘Journalist Tim Russert is Remembered’.

During this hour of reflection by many of his colleagues King played this video excerpt of Tim Russert’s thoughts about being a journalist:

“We are surrogates for the American people. Very few places in the world have the kind of protections, particularly the Constitutional protections, we have in this country as a free press. And we have an obligation for all those men and women who work hard all week long in real jobs that when they turn on CNN or turn on NBC, or pick up a newspaper or turn on the radio, they realize that someone else is working as hard as they are trying to get to the truth. And it is not an easy job, but you know what, Larry, it is the best one you could ever have. It is a vocation being in journalism.”

One might wonder when and how Russert developed this notion of vocation. In an On Faith’ interview sponsored by The Washington Post and Newsweek (18 May 2007), he revealed the secret:

“Let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
--John F. Kennedy January 20, 1961

“I was ten years old when I heard those words. They still resonate with me nearly a half century later. Am I doing God’s work? Is being a journalist my vocation? How does my faith influence my judgment as a reporter? Should it? Are the demands of my chosen profession leaving enough time for my responsibilities as a son, brother, husband, father and friend?”

Russert had headed this article with the important question, ‘Am I doing God’s Work?’

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “Am I doing God’s work?”

Related:
Tim Russert on Lifting Others Up
Tim Russert on America
Tim Russert on Fatherhood and Family
Tim Russert: ‘Always Loved, Never entitled’

Al Gore on Why Elections Matter

In his speech endorsing Barack Obama as the Presidential nominee, Al Gore made this statement about elections:

“Take it from me, elections matter,” Gore said.

“If you think the next appointments to our Supreme Court are important, you know that elections matter.”

“If you live in the city of New Orleans, you know that elections matter.”

“If you or a member of your family are serving in the active military, the National Guard or Reserves, you know that elections matter.”

“If you are a wounded veteran, you know that elections matter.”

“If you've lost your job; if you're struggling with a mortgage, you know that elections matter.”

Gore cited concerns about the environment and lead-painted toys -- as other reasons to vote for the Democrat.

Gore, not particularly known for his sense of humor then said, “If you care about food safety, if you like a “T” on your B.L.T., you know that elections matter….If you bought tainted pet food made in China, you know that elections matter. After the last eight years, even our dogs and cats have learned that elections matter.”

Al Gore Backs Obama for President, CNN.com, 16 June 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Al Gore and Barack Obama in Detroit, Michigan

Al Gore on [Obama’s] Youthfulness

As a challenge to John McCain’s claim that Barack Obama (aged 46) is too young and inexperienced to be President, Al Gore, in his official endorsement of Obama’s candidacy made a statement.

The former vice president turned Nobel Prize winner playfully said he recalled one Republican nominee wondering out loud whether his Democratic rival for president was "naive and inexperienced."

"Who were they talking about? Every single one of those quotes came from the campaign of 1960, when the the Republicans attacked John Fitzgerald Kennedy for allegedly lacking the age and experience necessary to be president."

Richard Nixon was the Republican nominee in 1960.

Gore continued, "President John F. Kennedy once read to a rival: ‘To exclude from positions of trust and command all those below the age of 44 would have kept Jefferson from writing the Declaration of Independence, Washington from commanding the Continental Army, Madison from fathering the Constitution and Christopher Columbus from even discovering America.’”

Gore Endorses Obama as a Solver of Problems, New York Times, 17 June 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Al Gore endorsing Barack Obama in Detroit, Michigan (Courtesy NYT).

Leonard Cohen: There is a Crack in Everything

Stephen Shoemaker writes:

Last week I was convalescing in late afternoon and I turned on the Oprah Show…The guest was Elizabeth Gilbert whose best seller Eat, Pray, Love is a powerful spiritual memoir.

Someone asked if everyone needed to be broken open as much as she was in order to find one’s spiritual path. No, she said, but everyone needs to experience some crack in their life; and she quoted Leonard Cohen:

“There is a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in.”

I looked up Leonard Cohen’s song, and it sounded for all the world like an Advent hymn to me:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

That’s how the light gets into our personal lives. That’s how the light gets in to our community and nation. A crisis, a broken dream, a ruinous choice, a brute reality. And the hard shell of our perfect but hollow life cracks open to the mercy and light of God.

Source: Stephen Shoemaker, Myers Park Baptist Church, 9 December 2007.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Eat Pray Love is reviewed at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “That’s how the light gets in.”

John Wood: Accountability Helps Focus

John Wood writes:

…Nothing focuses the mind quite like having to broadcast your results hundreds of times per day.

On my frequent travels, I noticed a reminder of this from the private sector.

United Airlines touted their number one on-time performance record on each and every napkin. Tens of thousands of times per day, they were telling their customers (and their employees) that this metric mattered.

Within a few weeks, I noticed that their flight attendants were much more focused on helping people with their overhead bags so that we could "push back for an on-time departure."

Knowing that they would be measured each month, and having bragged about it, the entire organization was focused on not losing their number one ranking.

Source: John Wood, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An entrepreneur’s Odyssey to Educate the World’s Children (New York: Collins, 2006), 141.

A review of this inspiring book is posted at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “performance record on each and every napkin.”

‘Do You Love Me?’ Tevye and Golde

Welton Gaddy recalls and reflects on a well known story:

With delight and a smile I recall that terrific interchange between Tevye and Golde in Fiddler on the Roof:

“Do you love me?” Tevye asked his wife.
“Do I what?” Golde responded.
“Do you love me?” Golde repeated the question with no little disgust in her voice and then commented, “Do I love you? With our daughters getting married and this trouble in the town, you are upset, you are worn out, go inside, go lie down, maybe it’s indigestion.”

“Golde,” Tevye said with growing impatience, “I’m asking you a question. Do you love me?”

Golde knew impatience as she observed aloud to Tevye, “You’re a fool.”

“I know,” her husband agreed, “But do you love me?”

If you have ever longed for someone to speak to you of their love for you, sensing that these words were as important for you as food for your stomach, as air for breath to keep you alive, you understand the importance of this exchange.

Golde speaks again, “For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow. After twenty-five years, why speak of love right now?” “I’m your wife,” she said. “But do you love me?”

Suddenly Golde becomes reflective, “For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him, fought with him, starved with him. Twenty-five years my bed is his. If that’s not love, what is?”

Tevye begins to feel better. “Then you love me?” “I suppose I do.” Tevye speaks of his love for Golde and confesses, “It’s nice to know.”

Well, of course it is.

Source: Welton Gaddy, A Community of the Resurrection, 13 April 2008.

Image: “Do you love me?” (Photo)

Monday, June 16, 2008

J K Rowling on Living Good Lives

In her Commencement Address at the 2008 Harvard Commencement Exercises, novelist J K Rowling spoke of what was important in life:

And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:

‘As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.’

I wish you all very good lives.

The full transcript and the video recording of Rowling’s address entitled ‘The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination’, may be found at this link.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: J K Rowling

Related:
Amnesty International’s Influence on J K Rowling, SFSAW
J K Rowling on the Value of Imagination, SFWAW
J K Rowling on the Value of Failure, SFSAW
J K Rowling: Giving a Commencement Address, SFSAW
J K Rowling’s Commencement Address at Harvard, SFSAW
J K Rowling on Friendships, SFSAW

J K Rowling on Friendships

In her Commencement Address at the 2008 Harvard Commencement Exercises, novelist J K Rowling spoke of the importance of making friendships:

“The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. They are my children’s godparents, the people to whom I’ve been able to turn in times of trouble, friends who have been kind enough not to sue me when I’ve used their names for Death Eaters.”

“At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and, of course, by the knowledge that we held certain photographic evidence that would be exceptionally valuable if any of us ran for Prime Minister.”

“So today, I can wish you nothing better than similar friendships.”

The full transcript and the video recording of Rowling’s address entitled ‘The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination’, may be found at this link.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: J K Rowling

Related:
Amnesty International’s Influence on J K Rowling, SFSAW
J K Rowling on the Value of Imagination, SFWAW
J K Rowling on the Value of Failure, SFSAW
J K Rowling: Giving a Commencement Address, SFSAW
J K Rowling’s Commencement Address at Harvard, SFSAW

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Simple Secret of Super Rugby Coach Robbie Deans

He was a great All Black and an outstanding coach of championship Rugby teams ‘down under’. Now Robbie Deans has commenced as the coach of the Australian Wallabies rugby team and his charges have been looking to discover his secret?

Wayne Smith picks up the story in The Australian:

“Turns out there was no secret at all. Everything Deans was telling them had been enunciated one-and-a-half centuries ago by American philosopher Henry David Thoreau. OK, not the bit about non-violent resistance, because Deans is the first to acknowledge that rugby is a violent sport and that turning the other cheek simply leads to matching sets of tag marks on your bum. The other bit - "our life is frittered away by detail ... simplify, simplify".

Smith says that in recent years the Wallabies have been coached to play in “tangled spaghetti strands of interconnected nodes. Running lines, packing angles, kicking zones. It was Thoreau turned on his head. Complicate, complicate?

And suddenly here was Deans telling his players that if there was space in front of them, run to it. If a roadblock was in their way but a team-mate was free, pass him the ball. It might all have been borrowed from another great American philosopher, the late and legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, who, when asked by one of his receivers what lines he should run to get free of the defence, replied: "Run to the daylight."

Think back to that Sydney night in 2003 when the Deans-coached All Blacks backline cut the Wallabies to shreds to rattle up an astonishing half-century. Afterwards [Australian Rugby Manager John] O'Neill sought out the New Zealand skipper Reuben Thorne, Deans' Crusaders captain at the time, to congratulate him on the most dazzling display of attacking rugby he had ever seen.

"Rugby's a simple game, John," Thorne responded, no doubt directly quoting his long-time coach.

Source: Wayne Smith, ‘Secret of the super coach: run towards the daylight’, The Australian, 14 June 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Robbie Deans

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Creativity Bubbling When the Pressure is on

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Paul Torday draws this extract from Peter Maxwell’s unpublished autobiography. He said:

“Mostly, I react well to stress. A lot of my best ideas come bubbling to the surface when the pressure is on.”

Source: Paul Torday, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (London: Phoenix, 2007), 234.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “My best ideas come bubbling to the surface when the pressure is on.”

Fathers and the Gift of Standing Alongside

Barrie Hibbert tells this story about a father and daughter (names are changed):

Sometimes, unexpectedly, in the middle of a conversation something is said that strikes you as being quite extraordinarily profound or beautiful or moving. That seems to happen often when I’m talking with my old friend William.

The other day as we were sharing news of our respective families, William mentioned his very bright, talented and vivacious daughter. But life has not been kind to Sarah, and over the years she has endured hardship and suffering almost beyond belief. Currently she is going through another very difficult time, and talking about it, William said:

“You know…I often think of the words “Stabat Mater”- that incredible phrase which describes Mary the mother of Jesus standing before the cross on which hangs the broken body of her beloved child.”

“She stands there heart-broken and helpless: she feels so deeply…but she cannot do a thing to help her suffering son.” William paused for a moment, then added, “That’s how I feel about Sarah.”

A brief silence followed. It was somehow the only appropriate response.

The scene at the foot of the cross is briefly described in the twenty-fifth verse of the nineteenth chapter of John’s Gospel. The brevity of the account somehow adds to its poignancy:

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother… and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.”

“Stabat Mater dolorosa” (“Stood the mother, full of grief”).

All of us… like Mary, like William… have ‘been there’ one way or another. Heart-broken and feeling helpless, we have watched a partner, a child, a grandchild, a parent, or a friend, enduring a pain which we can do nothing to cure, and little or nothing to even alleviate. At other times, we are more like those other women as we stand alongside the one standing alongside.

But ‘standing alongside’ is not as useless as it may sound. Many a sufferer would testify that it mattered more than they could ever say that there was somebody there - just standing alongside. When that is all you can do, that is all you can do and in the mysterious way that love works, it helps.

I am sure Sarah knows that her Dad is standing there. She knows that he can’t do anything much, but she knows that he is there and that he cares. As William talked the other morning, my heart went out to him. Perhaps, in a sense and for a moment, I felt that I was like the other two Marys in the Gospel: one who was standing alongside the one standing alongside. In such times, the poet John Milton reminds us: “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Source: Barrie Hibbert, 14 June 2008.


Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Father and daughter.

The Best Stories about Fathers


Here are fourteen of the best stories about fathers on this site, Stories for Speakers and Writers:

Tim Russert on Fatherhood and Family, SFSAW
Benjamin Zander, SFSAW (see at the end re the review from his Dad)
Julie Andrews discovers the truth about her father, SFSAW
Nick Hornby writes about his father, SFSAW
Martin Luther King Jnr and his father, SFSAW
Yolanda King speaks of her father, Martin L King, SFSAW
Steve Martin: Weeping for the lost years, SFSAW
Albert Einstein: He’ll never amount to anything! SFSAW
A father gains true sight, SFSAW
Jeff Skoll (eBay) on the words of his father, SFSAW
Frenzied Father, SFSAW
Children asking father questions, SFSAW
Tiger Woods and his father with a great story told by Sam Keene, SFSAW

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Pass on this Link
Pass on this link to other speakers and writers or simply to people who love reading a good story.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Earl and Tiger Woods.

Tim Russert on Lifting Others Up

Tributes are pouring in for legendary journalist, Tim Russert, who died today (13 June 2008).

Here is one of his sayings about children and helping those who struggle. It comes from the conclusion of his 2000 Commencement Address at Niagara University:

But please do this world one small favor.

Remember the people struggling along side you and below you. The people who haven't had the same opportunity, the same blessings, the same education.

No matter what profession you chose, you must try, even in the smallest ways, to improve the quality of life of the children in our country.

We can build more prisons…and put more police on the streets…and we will …but unless we instill in our young the most basic skills and cultural values…we will be a very different society in the next century. We must motivate--inspire--yes insist--they truly love and respect one another.

But while we are trying to change behavior, we cannot forget those who have not been reached. We must teach our children that they are never, never, entitled, but they are always, always loved. Liberals call it doing good…conservatives call it enlightened self-interest. No matter what your political philosophy, you know there is a child you can coach, mentor, teach--some are sick, some are lonely, some are uneducated. Most have little control over their fate. Give them a hand. Give them a chance. Give them their dignity. Indeed there is a simple truth; "No exercise is better for the human heart than reaching down to lift up another."

That is your charge. That is your opportunity.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Tim Russert.

Tim Russert on America

Tributes are pouring in for legendary journalist, Tim Russert, who died today (13 June 2008).

Here is one of his great sayings about America in an American Profile (2006) by Beverly Keeler:

Russert says he feels blessed to have enjoyed a career that’s allowed him to meet the pope, interview presidents and learn so much about so many subjects. "My dad’s favorite expression is, ‘What a country!’"

Russert says. "I look back to see the house I was born in and my dad quit school in tenth grade. The fact that the son of a truck driver and garbage man is now the moderator of Meet the Press, that’s everything you want to know about who we are as a people, society and a country. It’s not very complicated to know me. What you see is who I am. I am just someone who grew up in an extremely traditional lower middle-class upbringing and celebrates the uniqueness of this country every day.

"It can’t happen anywhere else," he says, then pauses. "It doesn’t happen anywhere else."

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Tim Russert giving the 2000 Commencement address at Niagara University.

Tim Russert on Fatherhood and Family

Tributes are pouring in for legendary journalist, Tim Russert, who died today (13 June 2008).

Here are some of his qualities and quotes on fatherhood and the famliy as compiled in an American Profile (2006) by Beverly Keeler:

Russert’s father, whom he affectionately calls Big Russ, retired with 200 unused sick days and taught his son the value of hard work and education. Russert and his siblings did their homework around the kitchen table as the sweet aromas of his mother’s cooking drifted from the oven. "We couldn’t trade our pencil for a fork until all the homework was done," he says. Both parents signed his report cards.

However, it certainly wasn’t all work and no play for the father and son, who caught the International League’s Buffalo Bisons playing baseball whenever possible. It was during one of the outings, a 1963 exhibition game between the International League All-Stars and the New York Yankees, that Big Russ taught his 13-year-old a lesson that he never forgot.

“My dad bought tickets way up in the nosebleeds,” he says. ‘I went down the aisle and tried desperately to get autographs. This one baseball player, Joe Pepitone, pushed me aside and I was crushed. I came back to my seat very dejected and my dad said, ‘What happened?’ I explained it to him and he said, ‘Don’t ever forget that. It takes as much time to be nice to someone as it does to be a jerk.’ It has stayed with me my entire life.”

Although he works seven days a week—attending church on Saturdays since his Sunday mornings are booked with Meet the Press—Russert makes it a priority to spend time with his family. Wife Maureen Orth, whom he married in 1983, is a correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine, and their son, Luke, 20, is a sophomore at Boston College.

“Through the course of it, I have never missed one of my son’s football, baseball or soccer games,” he says. “If he had a 3 o’clock game, I would carry my cell phone, go to it and come back. Everyone understood what I was doing. I think the most precious commodity you can give someone is your time.”

“My relationship with my son is much different than the relationship my father had with me,” says Russert, who admits he was "shattered" when his son left for college. “One, he is an only child. Secondly, I had the time and opportunity to be much more involved in his life and school and sports. My dad, because he was working so hard, couldn’t bring me to a lot of places. I probably overcompensate for that. I try to go everywhere and bring my son with me.”

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: The Russert trio.

Tim Russert: ‘Always Loved, Never Entitled’

Tributes are pouring in for legendary journalist, Tim Russert, who died today (13 June 2008).

Here are some of his qualities and quotes compiled in an American Profile (2006) by Beverly Keeler.

"I so admire Tim’s ability to weave his way through the political minefield of Washington," says Russert’s colleague Brian Williams, anchor of NBC Nightly News. "While on the air, he betrays no alliances and never violates a trust. He is as adept at political analysis as anyone in Washington. And he may know more of the players than any single media figure in the nation’s capital."

But it’s Russert’s roots in a working-class neighborhood in Buffalo, N.Y., that make him stand out in the ultra-polished world of network television. With his straightforward, common-sense approach, the plain-spoken Russert defies the stereotype of smooth-talking TV personal-ities with perfectly coiffed hair. "His great gift is that he’s never forgotten where he’s from," Williams says. "Quite the contrary: He wears his Buffalo roots like a badge of honor, and well he should."

"When I talk about Social Security, I think about my mom and dad," Russert says. "When I talk about taxes, I think about my mom and dad and people in our neighborhood and my three sisters and their families. I think about a sense of right and wrong—you can look at things and say, ‘That just doesn’t feel right’—and a sense of accountability. I remember making mistakes and being held accountable, and that’s terribly important for a journalist to understand.

"But our job really is that of a watchdog and trying to hold our government accountable to its people," Russert says. "It’s easy for government officials to develop a sense of entitlement, and the one thing you learn in Buffalo growing up is that you are never, ever entitled. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t say to my son, ‘You are always, always loved, but you are never, never entitled.’"

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Tim Russert

Friday, June 13, 2008

Amnesty International’s Influence on J K Rowling

In her Commencement Address at the 2008 Harvard Commencement Exercises, novelist J K Rowling spoke of the influence of Amnesty International on her life:

One of the greatest formative experiences of my life preceded Harry Potter, though it informed much of what I subsequently wrote in those books. This revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day jobs. Though I was sloping off to write stories during my lunch hours, I paid the rent in my early 20s by working in the research department at Amnesty International’s headquarters in London.

There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes.

Many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had been displaced from their homes, or fled into exile, because they had the temerity to think independently of their government. Visitors to our office included those who had come to give information, or to try and find out what had happened to those they had been forced to leave behind.

I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him to the Underground Station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness.

And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man sitting with her. She had just given him the news that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country’s regime, his mother had been seized and executed.

Every day of my working week in my early 20s I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone.

Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about some of the things I saw, heard and read.

And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International than I had ever known before.

Amnesty mobilises thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.

The full transcript and the video recording of Rowling’s address entitled ‘The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination’, may be found at this link.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Amnesty International Logo

F W Boreham: A Sip from ‘The Chalice of Life’

I have mentioned on the F W Boreham web site that a new book that collects up some of the essays and addresses by Dr. Boreham is due to be printed in the USA today.

F W Boreham became know as a prolific author (55 books), enduring editorialist (more than 3,000 editorials written in the Hobart Mercury and the Melbourne Age between 1912 and 1959) and a storyteller par excellence.

I posted today the Foreword that I wrote for the book. This and purchasing details can be read at this link:
New Book: The Chalice of Life

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Front cover of The Chalice of Life.

Ivory Soap: Innovation by Accident

Tom Kelley in The Art of Innovation tells the story behind Procter and Gamble’s fabulously successful Ivory soap:

It began with a blunder; an ordinary worker who went to lunch and accidentally left a mixing machine running with a batch of soap inside. When he came back, the mix had been whipped to a froth, with soap so light it floated.

By chance, the new floating Ivory proved to be both convenient and popular, marketed by P & G as “99 and 44 one-hundredths percent pure.”

A factory worker stumbled onto a new way of mixing soap, but it was P & G’s marketing group that seized the opportunity to create one of the most successful packaged goods of the twentieth century.

Source: Tom Kelley, The Art of Innovation: Lessons and Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm (London: Profile Books, 2001), 150.

A review of this fine book can be seen at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Ivory Soap: Born from an accident.

Related:
Tom Kelley on:
Get on your bike: Success Breeds Complacency
Snowboarding: Fear Doesn’t get you down the Mountain
Lou Holtz: The Best Leaders and Teammates
Innovation Begins with the Eye
Benjamin Zander: Getting the Best out of your Students
Tiger Woods and Team Effort


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Refreshment at the River

A minister was completing a temperance sermon. With great emphasis he said, 'If I had all the beer in the world, I'd take it and pour it into the river.'

With even greater emphasis he said, 'And if I had all the wine in the world, I'd take it and pour it into the river.'

And then finally, shaking his fist in the air, he said, 'And if I had all the whiskey in the world, I'd take it and pour it into the river.'

Sermon complete, he sat down.

The song-leader stood cautiously and announced with a smile, “For our closing hymn, let us sing: Hymn No.365, 'Shall We Gather at the River.'”

Image: Pouring it at the river.

Use Testimonies or You’re Whistling in the Wind

On the popular Copyblogger site is this story about the power of testimony and social proof which Dean Rieck uses to introduce his guest article:

Testimonials add power to your copy. How? Let me answer that question by telling you a little story about a rabble of bladder-challenged teenagers whizzing in the bushes along an Interstate near my home.

Trust me. There’s a connection.

You see, some time ago, my wife and I were on our way to a party when traffic slowed to a standstill along a stretch of highway. Nine out of ten cars were filled with teenagers, so I quickly concluded that there was a concert at the nearby arena and that the ill-designed off ramp was clogged.

Fortunately, the wait paid off with unexpected entertainment.

A young man jumped from a car ahead of us and, in obvious physical distress, ran into the weeds to the right side of the road. Thirty seconds later he reappeared, smiling the smile of a man relieved of a great burden. He re-entered his car to the approving whoops of a highwayful of instant fans.

A few moments later, a girl wearing one of those glorious “I’m doing something my parents don’t approve of” expressions followed the boy’s lead, plunging into the overgrowth, beer can still in hand.

Within seconds, two-dozen others ran staggering into the bushes. And when the available flora offered no more occupancy, the less shy simply turned their backs to the road and conducted their transactions under a bright Ohio sky.

Actually, I would have liked to use the facilities myself, but my wife’s disapproving look – not to mention the traumatic memory of insulting a nest of hornets the last time I improvised a rest stop – kept me in the car.

What happened here?

This is an example of social proof, the psychological principle of accepting something because others accept it, of doing something because others are doing it.

Most of those teenagers had been drinking. And I’m sure many of them needed to relieve themselves. But the idea of doing it in public didn’t strike them as acceptable until they saw someone else doing it. And the more who did it, the more acceptable it seemed.

It’s a natural human instinct to follow the behavior of others, whether it’s wearing the same type of boring gray suit as your associates or laughing at your boss’s lame jokes because everyone else around the water cooler is laughing.

Social proof is one of the most powerful psychological forces in our lives, and that definitely applies to copywriting. And what is the most popular – perhaps the most effective – social proof technique available to copywriters?

It’s our old friend, the testimonial.

To read the 11 ways that testimonials influence behaviour, follow this link but beware of the wet grass:

Testimonials and Teenagers Whizzing in the Bushes, Copyblogger.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Just Do It!

J K Rowling on the Value of Imagination

In her Commencement Address at the 2008 Harvard Commencement Exercises, novelist J K Rowling spoke of the value and power of imagination:

Though I will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

One of the greatest formative experiences of my life preceded Harry Potter, though it informed much of what I subsequently wrote in those books. This revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day jobs. Though I was sloping off to write stories during my lunch hours, I paid the rent in my early 20s by working in the research department at Amnesty International’s headquarters in London.

There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes.

Many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had been displaced from their homes, or fled into exile, because they had the temerity to think independently of their government. Visitors to our office included those who had come to give information, or to try and find out what had happened to those they had been forced to leave behind.

I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him to the Underground Station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness.

And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man sitting with her. She had just given him the news that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country’s regime, his mother had been seized and executed.

Every day of my working week in my early 20s I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone.

Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about some of the things I saw, heard and read.

And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International than I had ever known before.

Amnesty mobilises thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s minds, imagine themselves into other people’s places.

Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise.

And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.

What is more, those who choose not to empathise may enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.

But how much more are you, Harvard graduates of 2008, likely to touch other people’s lives? Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities. Even your nationality sets you apart. The great majority of you belong to the world’s only remaining superpower. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege, and your burden.

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped transform for the better. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

The full transcript and the video recording of Rowling’s address entitled ‘The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination’, may be found at this link.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: J K Rowling

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Emperor Moth: Killing it with Kindness

Alfred Russel Wallace once tried to help an emperor-moth but unknowingly caused it harm.

He came upon the emerging moth beating its wings and struggling wildly to force its passage through the narrow neck of its cocoon. It had fine proportions, eight inches from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other, and he thought it a pity that so attractive a creature should be subjected to so severe an ordeal. He took out a sharp blade and slit the cocoon.

The moth came out at once; but its glorious colors never developed. The soaring wings never expanded. The indescribable hues and tints and shades that should have adorned them never appeared. The moth crept about; drooped perceptibly and soon died.

The furious struggle with the cocoon was nature's wise way of developing the wings and of sending the vital fluids pulsing through the frame until every particle glowed with beauty.

The naturalist had saved the creature from the struggle but had unintentionally killed it in the process.

Source: F W Boreham, Mushrooms on the Moor (London: Charles H Kelly, 1915), 135-136.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Emperor Moth—“The naturalist had saved the creature from the struggle, but had unintentionally killed it in the process.”

Julian Barnes on Missing God

“I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him.”

With this sentence Julian Barnes commences his family memoirs.

Julian Barnes, Nothing to be Frightened of (London: Jonathan Cape, 2008), 1.

Image: Julian Barnes

More from Julian Barnes:
Cricket for Eternity, Stories for Speakers and Writers.
Making People See Differently, SFSW

Dr. Geoff Pound

Get on Your Bike: Success Breeds Complacency

Tom Kelley in The Art of Innovation shares this story and principle:

At its zenith, Schwinn, the leading bike manufacturer, sold a quarter of all U.S. bicycles. When mountain bikes emerged, however, Schwinn mistakenly wrote them off as a fad. That, despite the fact that some of the early mountain bikes—just north of us in Marin County, California—had first tackled the rugged mountain paths with souped-up Schwinns, partly because the bikes were so darned sturdy.

Success has a tendency to hamstring companies, to cause them to become complacent and neglect the risk taking that got them to the top. Though Schwinn adeptly picked up on the customer-inspired Sting-Ray trend in the sixties, somehow the company managed to miss out on an analogous mountain biking trend in the eighties.

When the dust settled, of course, mountain bikes proved to be much more than a fad. The public flocked to the fat-tired, easy-to-ride bikes for lots of good reasons.

Ten-speed road bikes, formerly the most popular style, were actually built for racers, not recreational use. Thin tires may be fast, but they aren't comfortable, convenient or especially safe. And, of course, there's the beauty and thrill of riding down a mountain. We all know that some of those mountain hike tires never even touch dirt, let alone steep mountain trails, but mountain bikes are far better suited for the average rider than the old low-slung ten-speed.

Specialized Bicycle Components… didn't have the problem of resting on its laurels. Originally a niche vendor of high-end bike parts, Specialized quickly capitalized on the mountain bike craze, popularizing the sport with races and clever promotions, while the old U.S. giant, Schwinn, slowly became irrelevant.

Today an amazing 70 percent of the full-sized cycles sold in the United States are mountain bikes. Based on its success as a mountain bike maverick, Specialized still uses its in-your-face slogan, "Innovate or Die," which is printed in huge white letters on the long black hearse the company takes to biking events. Not a bad motto to take to heart.

Source: Tom Kelley, The Art of Innovation: Lessons and Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm (London: Profile Books, 2001), 238-239.

A review of this fine book can be seen at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “The public flocked to the fat-tired, easy-to-ride bikes.”

Related:
Snowboarding: Fear Doesn’t Get You Down the Mountain, Stories For Speakers.

Snowboarding: Fear Doesn’t Get You Down the Mountain

Tom Kelley in The Art of Innovation shares this story and principle:

Thinking about what you might lose—market share, revenue, a title, your status, your job—makes it nearly impossible to take a leap. That’s why the big new ideas usually come from small companies, or big ones who somehow manage to act small. Fear doesn't get you down the mountain.

Take the amazing phenomenon of snowboarding. Plenty of journalists and ski resorts at first called it a fad. During the early ramp-up of' snowboarding, Time dubbed it America's "Worst New Sport." Ski resorts tried to ban boarders, and mainstream ski manufacturers figured it was a passing fancy.

But looking back, it was the ideal time to break the rules. Downhill skiing had been stagnant for years and was starting to lose its momentum as rising ticket prices were keeping families and children off the slopes. Once a symbol of youthful rebelliousness (remember Robert Bedford in Downhill Racer?), skiing was becoming dated.

Great time for the dominant downhill ski makers to reinvent the sport, right? Not exactly. Rossignol, Solomon, Fischer, and the other ski powerhouses were too busy protecting market share in their mainstream business to ride the first snowboarding wave.

Meanwhile, upstart Jake Burton Carpenter was breaking the ice—so to speak—by hacking outboards in his Vermont garage. He went to his local hardware store—and Austria—to get ideas. In the early days, Burton's toll-free customer service line rang in his bedroom at all hours. He built one of the first boards that could handle ice and hard pack, partly because Vermont's conditions were so icy. While he didn’t invent the snowboard (being first isn't always critical), he did popularize the sport through a combination of quality, persistence, and lobbying that would have done Macintosh evangelists proud.

In retrospect, it's easy to see why manufacturers and ski resorts initially fought the tide. Early boarders had a nasty habit of embodying the worst of male adolescence at high speeds. But Burton's campaign to convince ski resorts to open their mountains to boards gradually took hold. Within a few years, 90 percent of U.S. resorts accepted snowboards, and now over 5 million Americans enjoy the sport. Burton is the world's leading manufacturer of' snowboards, and even IDEO has hitched a ride on the sport, designing face-hugging goggles for use on the slopes.

Source: Tom Kelley, The Art of Innovation: Lessons and Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm (London: Profile Books, 2001), 236-238.

A review of this fine book can be seen at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “Fear doesn't get you down the mountain.”

Related:
Get on your bike: Success Breeds Complacency, Stories for Speakers

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

J K Rowling on the Value of Failure

The author tells Harvard students at their Commencement Exercises about her experience of failure and the valuable insights she gained:

“The fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure. You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire for success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person’s idea of success, so high have you already flown academically.”

“Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.”

“Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.”

“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

“You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.”

“Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies.”

“The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned.”

J K Rowling’s entire Commencement address is posted at: Harvard Magazine, June 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: J K Rowling

Related:

J K Rowling: Giving a Commencement Address

J K Rowling on Parental Expectations

Muhammad Yunus: Success by Unconventional Wisdom

Nobel Prize winner tells MIT graduates to consider conventional practice and do the opposite:

Now, in hindsight, I can joke about it. When people ask me, "How did you figure out all the rules and procedures that is now known as Grameen system?" My answer is: "That was very simple and easy. Whenever I needed a rule or a procedure in our work, I just looked at the conventional banks to see what they do in a similar situation. Once I learned what they did, I just did the opposite. That's how I got our rules. Conventional banks go to the rich, we go to the poor; their rule is -- "the more you have, the more you get." So our rule became -- "the less you have higher attention you get. If you have nothing, you get the highest priority." They ask for collateral, we abandoned it, as if we had never heard of it. They need lawyers in their business, we don't. No lawyer is involved in any of our loan transactions. They are owned by the rich, ours is owned by the poorest, the poorest women to boot. I can go on adding more to this list to show how Grameen does things quite the opposite way.

Was it really a systematic policy—to do it the opposite way? No, it wasn't. But that's how it turned out ultimately, because our objective was different. I had not even noticed it until a senior banker admonished me by saying: Dr. Yunus, you are trying to put the banking system upside down." I quickly agreed with him. I said: "Yes, because the banking system is standing on its head."

I could not miss seeing the ruthlessness of moneylenders in the village. First I lent the money to replace the loan-sharks. Then I went to the local bank to request them to lend money to the poor. They refused.

After months of deadlock I persuaded them by offering myself as a guarantor. This is how microcredit was born in 1976. Today Grameen Bank lends money to 7.5 million borrowers, 97 per cent women. They own the bank. The bank has lent out over $ 7.0 billion in Bangladesh over the years. Globally 130 million poor families receive microcredit. Even then banks have not changed much. They do not mind writing off a trillion dollars in a sub-prime crisis, but they still stay away from lending US $ 100 to a poor woman despite the fact such loans have near 100 per cent repayment record globally.

The entire Commencement address is posted at:
‘The Upside Down Thinking of Muhammad Yunus, Stories for Speakers and Writers, 10 June 2008.

Related:
Muhammad Yunus on Poverty

Muhammad Yunus on Changing the World

Muhammad Yunus: Falling Back on Instinct

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “I just did the opposite.”

Hillary Clinton: The Side Few See

Jim Wallis on the Sojourners Blog writes about his son meeting Senator Hillary Clinton and witnessing a side of her that few people see:

“My 9-year-old son, Luke, considers Hillary a “friend,” having met her at a New Year’s weekend retreat that both of our families attended. Hillary very graciously sends him little personal notes to congratulate him on his Little League baseball successes. It's a wonderful gesture that utterly defies the harsh commentaries on her style that she sadly so often receives.”

“At the CNN candidate forum on faith, values, and poverty that Sojourners co-sponsored last June, Luke got to meet her again and told the senator privately, ‘Hillary, I can’t vote, but if I could, I would vote for you.’ She beamed the biggest smile back to my son and said, ‘Oh Luke, that means so much to me!’”

“Luke has remained totally faithful to Hillary during the primary political season, proudly wearing a Clinton button on his safety patrol belt, and was one of her disappointed supporters when she finally had to concede. Five-year-old Jack voted just the way his big brother did in their D.C. public school primary, resisting the Obama landslide.”

“My boys, like lots of little girls and boys, now believe that a woman running for president is normal, possible, and to be expected, as they do for an African-American candidate. Luke is looking forward to the day when a black woman will be able to run. ‘Wouldn’t that be cool, Dad?’ he says. It surely would, and for that we have both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to thank.”

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Hillary Clinton

Lou Holtz: The Best Leaders and the Best Teammates

A few years ago I was on the same speaking agenda with Lou Holtz, the veteran football coach at the University of Notre Dame…. The coach said something that day that struck me. He said that the team changes every year, but each team member’s three implicit questions for him remain the same:

Do you care about me?

Can I trust you?

Are you committed to the success of our team?

The best leaders answer those questions with actions instead of words, and the best teammates leave no doubt about where they stand.

Source: Tom Kelley, The Art of Innovation: Lessons and Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm (London: Profile Books, 2001), 84.

A review of this fine book can be seen at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Lou Holtz.

Tom Kelley: Innovation Begins with the Eye

Tom Kelley in The Art of Innovation shares this story and principle:

Once you start observing carefully, all kinds of insights and opportunities can open up.

For example, the hugely popular elliptical cross-trainer exercise machines [that Condoleezza Rice takes on her overseas trips for her early morning workout] in your local health club got started from a single human observation.

Larry Miller, a human-factors-savvy person working at General Motors, was videotaping his daughter running one day and noticed the elliptical path traced by her feet as she went through her exercise. From that observation-based spark, Miller set about building a prototype of a device that would mimic his daughter’s elliptical movement—without the jarring impact of feet hitting the ground.

He sold his idea to Seattle-based fitness equipment maker Precor, Inc., which developed it into its EFX line of elliptical trainers.

Thanks in part to Miller’s epiphany, Precor is now the fastest-growing equipment company in the health club industry.

Source: Tom Kelley, The Art of Innovation: Lessons and Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm (London: Profile Books, 2001), 28.

A review of this fine book can be seen at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: One of the range of elliptical trainers.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

J K Rowling: Giving a Commencement Address

In her introductory remarks to her Commencement Address at the Harvard Commencement Exercises, novelist J K Rowling spoke of the challenge of preparing her statement:

“The first thing I would like to say is ‘thank you.’ Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honour, but the weeks of fear and nausea I’ve experienced at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation! Now all I have to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners and fool myself into believing I am at the world’s best-educated Harry Potter convention.”

“Delivering a commencement address is a great responsibility; or so I thought until I cast my mind back to my own graduation. The commencement speaker that day was the distinguished British philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock. Reflecting on her speech has helped me enormously in writing this one, because it turns out that I can’t remember a single word she said. This liberating discovery enables me to proceed without any fear that I might inadvertently influence you to abandon promising careers in business, law or politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay wizard.”

“You see? If all you remember in years to come is the ‘gay wizard’ joke, I’ve still come out ahead of Baroness Mary Warnock. Achievable goals: the first step towards personal improvement.”

The full transcript and the video recording of Rowling’s address entitled ‘The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination’, may be found at this link.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: J K Rowling

J K Rowling’s Commencement Address at Harvard

It is the season for graduation or commencement and Harvard University was fortunate enough to have novelist J K Rowling as one of their Commencement Service speakers.

On 5 June 2008 Rowling spoke on the theme, ‘The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination’.

The transcript and the video recording may be found at this link.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: J K Rowling (photo courtesy of Harvard University).

Muhammad Yunus on Changing the World

In a Commencement address at MIT on 6 June 2008 Muhammad Yunus included this statement on fixing problems and changing the world:

“At this point let me give you the good news. No matter how daunting the problems look, don't get brow beaten by their size. Big problems are most often just an aggregation of tiny problems. Get to the smallest component of the problem. Then it becomes an innocent bite-size problem, and you can have all the fun dealing with it. You'll be thrilled to see in how many ways you can crack it. You can tame it or make it disappear by various social and economic actions, including social business. Pick out the action which looks most efficient in the given circumstances. Tackling big problems does not always have to be through giant actions, or global initiatives or big businesses. It can start as a tiny little action. If you shape it the right way, it can grow into a global action in no time. Even the biggest problem can be cracked by a small well-designed intervention. That's where you and your creativity come in. These interventions can be so small that each one of you can crack these problems right from your garage. If you have a friend or two to work with you, it is all the more better. It can be fun too.”

“You are born in the age of ideas. Ideas are something an MIT graduate, I am sure, will not run out of. The question I am raising now -- what use [do] you want to make of them? Make money by selling or using your ideas? Or change the world with your ideas? Or do both? It is up to you to decide.”

“There are two clear tasks in front of you -- 1) to end poverty in the world once for all, and 2) to set the world in the right path to undo all the damage we have done to the environment by our ignorance and selfishness. Time is right. Your initiatives can produce big results; even lead you to achieving these goals. Then yours will be the most successful generation in human history. You will take your grand-children to the poverty museums with tremendous pride that your generation had finally made it happen.”

To read the entire Commencement address of Muhammad Yunnus at MIT, the story of his work with microcredit and the Grameen bank, follow this link:

Stories for Speakers and Writers, 10 June 2008.

An excerpt from this address on poverty is at this link:

Stories for Speakers and Writers, 10 June 2008.

Muhammad Yunus: Falling Back on Instinct

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “No matter how daunting the problems look, don't get brow beaten by their size.”