March 16, 2014 § 2 Comments
Yesterday, big raindrops began to fall. The rain fell slowly at first; and then with some vigour. I loved the way the rain painted the wooden pillars of our patio; painstakingly drop by drop till finally the pillars were completely drenched. This morning, the pillars were dry again!
The drenching of the pillars reminded me of Gregory Berns’ study ( mentioned in Susan Cain’s book, ‘Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking’).
Peer pressure, can be unpleasant and can actually change one’s view of the world. Yet, sometimes we remain uninfluenced and then feel ‘the pain of independence.’ And for all this we don’t often realise that the health of society, depends on dissenting voices.
Thankfully some of us stand tall in spite of opposition. Please let me know if this resonates with you.
March 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
Grandma and Grandson.
Mark Davis[i], recently ran a workshop on ‘Learning to Love.’ I was particularly touched by a poem by Caryll Houselander that he introduced.
For me it epitomises the way we learn to love.
Soeur Marie Emelie
Soeur Marie Emelie is little and very old;
Her eyes are onyx, and her cheeks vermilion,
Her apron wide and kind and cobalt blue.
She comforts generations and generations of children,
Who are ‘new’ at the convent school.
When they are eight, they are already up to her shoulder,
They grow up and go into the world,
She remains forever always incredibly old,
But incredibly, never older.
Generations of children sit in turn by her side,
And helps her to shell the peas,
Her dry and twisted fingers crackle,
Snapping the green pods,
Generations of children sit in turn by her side,
Helping to stone the plums, that will be jam,
For the greater glory of God.
She has affinity with the hens,
When a hen dies, she sits down on a bench and cries.
She is the only grown up, whose tears are not frightening tears.
Children can weep without shame, at her side.
She is simple as flax.
She collects the eggs,
They are warm and smooth and softly coloured,
Ivory, ochre, and brown and rose.
They fit the palm of her hand.
Her eyes kindle upon them,
The children, watching gravely,
Understand her dumb, untroubled love.
We have grown up, and gone away ‘into the world’,
And grown cold in the service of God,
But we would love Him even less than we do,
If we had never known Soeur Marie Emelie,
With the green peas and the plums,
And the hens and the beautiful eggs,
And her apron as wide and kind
As skies on a summer day,
And as clean and blue.
I hope you enjoy this poem as I have done and recall some of your happy moments of connection.
February 1, 2014 § 1 Comment
In 1968 I graduated from a bicycle to a Lambretta. Five days after my purchase, I noticed that the speedometer was not working. I rang the distributor and complained bitterly.
‘Not a problem, Sir, I will send a mechanic to see what’s wrong.’ True promise, the mechanic turned up on my doorstep an hour later.
‘What seems to be the problem?’
‘The speedometer is not working.’
‘Why don’t you show me?’
I kick started the scooter; I got on and he got as pillion. We went for a spin and when I returned, I said gleefully, ‘See.’
‘Perhaps if you went a little faster, you would see the needle move.’
‘Let me show you.’
He kick started the scooter, got on and I got on as pillion. I thought he was riding recklessly fast. The needle rose as he picked up speed and at forty kilometres it held steady. As we returned to home base, he began to slow down and the needle progressively fell back to zero!
‘You see Sir; the needle does not begin to move till you reach a registrable speed.’
I am sure he laughed all the way back to the distributorship; and I must confess, since then, I smile each time anybody tells me to slow done.
January 25, 2014 § 3 Comments
I was complaining to my friend Bob, a sage engineer. Some say he’s a ‘sparky’, a colloquial term for an electrician. Anyway, I think he’s a bright spark.
‘What’s the problem, mate? Why the long face?’ he asked.
‘It’s Brian – not his real name. He’s not delivering on his promises.’
‘Happens all the time?’
‘Change your shoes, mate.’
‘Look, he’s not going to change. If you want a better outcome, then you’d better change your approach.’
As Fred Kofman says in his book, ‘Conscious Business: How to Build Value through Values’:
‘… focus on those aspects of the situation that you can influence. When you play cards, you have no control over the hand you are dealt. If you spend all your time complaining and making excuses for your cards, you will feel disempowered and will most likely lose the game. But if you see yourself as having a choice in how to play those cards, your feelings will change. You will have a sense of possibility. Even if you don’t win, you can always do your best with the cards you’ve got.’
So, as Bob says, ‘Choose to play or choose to complain!’
January 23, 2014 § Leave a comment
I have often claimed that being appropriate depended on the context. I mindlessly fell in line with my first boss’ thinking some 48 years ago!
‘There is right, and there is wrong. This is quite clear, but when you grow up you will realise that there is also something called appropriate. Appropriate behaviour depends on the situation. It can be right or it can be wrong as long as you get a good outcome.’
Thinking back, he was giving me permission to be ‘slightly dishonest.’
I have often reflected on this stance and was glad to come across Sheryl Sandberg’ point of view:
Communication [behaviour] works best when we combine appropriateness with authenticity, finding that sweet spot when opinions are not brutally honest but delicately honest. Speaking truthfully without hurting feelings comes naturally to some and is an acquired skill for others.[i]
Linking appropriateness with authenticity is the telling point. If we want to be true to our core values then we must be willing to suffer injustice rather than commit it. As Christ put it, ‘Let him that has not sinned cast the first stone.’[ii]
I would be a better person if I could follow these principles more often.
[i] Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Kindle.
[ii] This idea is garnered from Fred Kofman, Consciousness Business: How to Build Value Through Values, Kindle.
January 19, 2014 § 1 Comment
Last week, as I stood in the queue for the security check-in at Melbourne Airport, I became aware of an elderly couple in front of me. I wasn’t paying too much attention to them, but peripherally I registered the small tell tale signs that they were visitors to Australia.
‘Igor, have you the tickets?’
‘Yes, Olga, I have them.’
As the queue drew slowly to the scanners, my thoughts turned towards my meeting in Sydney, what I would say and how I might strategize differently. My attention reverted to the couple when I saw the surprise on the security attendant’s face.
Igor lifted a huge suit case onto the belt of the scanner. ‘I have a ticket,’ he said with a smile.
‘Yes, yes,’ said Olga adding weight to Igor’s claim.
‘You can’t take this on board!’ said the security attendant.
‘Ah, but you see I have a ticket. See two tickets!’
The attendant looked at the tickets and exclaimed, ‘These are international tickets. This is the domestic section!’
‘Yes, yes so I fly, no?’
After some discussion, a Qantas employee appeared and shepherded the couple to the correct terminal.
As the couple walked away, I thought back to a similar occurrence in 1968. I had just got my first job with a large multinational organisation in India. I was a seasoned traveller. I had crisscrossed the Indian subcontinent several times by train, bus and car; and now, I was about to take my first aeroplane journey.
‘Don’t miss your flight,’ said my boss.
‘Do you want somebody to check you in?’
I heard my flight called and ignored it. I was with friends whom hadn’t flown before and I wanted to bask in their adulation for as long as possible. I ignored the second announcement as well. I only moved when the third and final call was made.
‘Boarding pass please,’ said the attendant.
‘Here’s my ticket.’
‘I need a boarding pass.’
‘Isn’t a ticket sufficient?’
‘Please get your boarding pass from the Check-in counter. You’d better hurry; they usually close the counter after the second call.’
I got to the counter just as it was closing, only to be told, ‘Sorry Sir the flight is fully booked!’
January 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
Two Frogmouth Owls snuggling in a tree besides our carport; and another extract from Lian Hearn’s, ‘the storyteller and his three daughters’.
‘It was rather a cool night for June and had been raining most of the day. My wife complained of feeling cold and tired to crawl against me. I lay rigid without responding.
Tae: You could at least embrace me once in a while.
Sei: Really, we are a little old for that now!
Tae: You may be fifty but don’t forget I’m six years younger. Is it that I don’t appeal to you anymore?
Sei: It’s nothing like that. I’m tired. Go to sleep.
Tae: What an unfeeling man you are! No wonder people aren’t moved by your stories. You’re incapable of emotion. It would serve you right if I looked for affection elsewhere!
Sei: Affection? What are you talking about?
I turned over and pretended to fall asleep. My wife was getting some strange ideas in her head. I blamed the magazines she read with their tales of romance and falling in love. Yet as always she had managed to wound me. I had become austere. I prided myself on it. It seemed at my age appropriate to seek the non-attachment of a Buddha. But while I was disengaging myself from all emotion, audiences were demanding even more emotional stories, filled with human passion and, shameful or not as it might be, a part of myself still wanted to give them that, to hold them spellbound and leave them thirsting for more.’
Richard Maxwell and Robert Dickman[i] say, ‘A story is a fact, wrapped in an emotion that compels us to take an action that transforms our world.’ Perhaps Sei’s world will be transformed too. Read the book to find out.
[i] The Elements of Persuasion (2007), Harper Collins.
January 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
“He spoke as before in fragments, begging me to bring his words to light, to disclose the truth, telling me I was his only hope. There was much I wanted to say in reply, but I could not move my lips. I thought about the other demands on me, the ‘yose’ hall waiting for me in a month, Takayuki expecting me to do something in return for my rent, the ever-growing queue of my own stories. I argued silently that audiences did not want to be made to feel guilty or to be obligated to atone for the crimes of the past, that history only interested them if it was glorious and flattering, that I was not a hero, or a political activist. I was just a middle-aged storyteller. I did not deal in truth, I dealt only in lies.”
An extract from Lian Hearn’s book: ‘the storyteller and his three daughters’, a Christmas present from my daughter, Simone. A beautiful read reflecting on the nature of storytelling, its struggles with fact and fiction and ultimately the baring of truth.
Read the book and tell me what you think.
December 12, 2013 § 1 Comment
We were sitting on Trigg Beach watching the sun go down over the sea. We were listening to the waves pounding the beach and watching the last of the gulls winging it in the sky.
Bev remarked, ‘There’s such a lovely pattern to life. The sun goes down and comes up again. The waves go on. The wind blows in gusts.’
‘What’s that little blip on the horizon?’
There was a little light blinking far out at sea. I could hardly notice it in the fading light. ‘It’s a buoy. Small blip; big impact.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘It’s warning sailors that there is a change in the pattern of the waters, submerged rocks, shallow water or some other hidden danger. It says, “Watch out, danger ahead”.’
I got to thinking that in all the organisations that I’ve worked in over the years; it’s been the prima-donnas kicking up a racket about the small blips that have made a difference to excellent service or product design!
I recalled the many chefs that have screamed when I picked up a plate before the final garnish was put on. I recalled production managers that bemoaned small defects in their output. I recalled managers and supervisors that abhorred poor dress codes. Bad behaviour perhaps, but taken in context, I knew and my co-workers knew it was all about care.
Small blip; big impact.
December 6, 2013 § 6 Comments
My wife sometimes, only sometimes, surprises me. We were sitting quietly amidst all the confusion in a house turned upside down by four-year-old children having fun. We were in Perth, in my daughter Isabel’s home; but I was still mentally in Melbourne.
‘Of course I am!’
‘Is now a good time to talk?’
‘Yes, yes.’ The words belied the tone.
‘What about it?’
‘Were you happy to leave your job there?’
‘No, I was disappointed.’
‘Were you worried?’
‘Of course, I was worried. I had no job to go to and I had you and the five kids to support. Of course I was worried. What are you on about?’
‘What happened then?’
‘Why, I got another job.’
‘Was it a better job?’
‘Yes, a better job. Bev, where are we going with this?’
‘Umm… and then what happened?’
I got retrenched.’
‘That was a bad thing.’
‘Of course, it was a bad thing. You know that!’
‘Yes, yes, of course it was a bad thing. But, what happened next?’
‘I got another job.’
‘‘Was it a good job?’
‘The best I’ve ever had.’
‘That’s a good thing, so what’s the grouch?’
‘I got passed up for a promotion.’
‘Well that’s a bad thing; I wonder what next?’
I reached out, took her hand, and, now I was smiling.