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Tag: soul

A video of Ben Zander speaking on contribution

Here we are.

UPDATE: If you’ve never heard Ben Zander, the orchestra conductor, speak on leadership, I recommend it strongly.  Half an hour that will truly change your life.

Ben Zander,  comfortable of course, in front of a large audience speaks on his work as teacher, university professor and professional conductor.

He has learned to look for the spirit of musicians and talks about “one buttock playing”, “bringing the light to people’s eyes” and  “apologizing and inviting”.  With these three rules of thumb, you’ll transform the way you work with others.

Welcome to the world of ease and merriment of Ben Zander!

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What they say when we are gone . . .

An old, dear friend passed away this weekend living in his third country having been displaced by war & politics twice in his life time.  I’ve just received a eulogy from his daughter-in-law.

Bob was one of those rare parents who loved his children as they were. What they were was interesting but not essential: how they were was vital.

Bob, go well.  RIP

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Law of attraction, positive thinking . . . how old is it?

A long back story

I took out Goodbye Mr Chips from my local library thinking it would be nice to relax for a couple of hours with this gentle, slightly sentimental, very inspirational movie. For non-Brits, this is a classic pygmalion, teacher story with romance thrown in. Think To Sir With Love, History Boys and Freedom Writers. I think when Yanks write pygmalion stories they are typically about basketball coaches. Britain has teacher stories.

Goodbye Mr Chips is a double-pygmalion story. Mr Chipping is an awkward “Latin master” in a “public school”.  If you are non-Brit, read exclusive private school (or prep school in Americanese – a prep school here preps you to go to public school which takes you to the army academy or university).

Mr Chipping has two mentors. A charming relaxed fellow teacher and his wife. They are the catalysts in allowing Mr Chipping, or Chips as he comes to be called, to incorporate the softer side of his nature in his teaching style, reform the rugged-masculine-bullying culture of the school, and to encourage boy-after-boy, and their sons after them, to blend the feminine sides of their nature with the masculine demands of their school and obligations to country.

I thought I was borrowing the musical version with Peter O’Toole from the library.   When I got home, I discovered I a new version with Martin Clunes, the star of the TV show, Doc Martin. He makes a marvellous Mr Chips with the mixture of clumsiness and kindness that we also see in Doc Martin. (He doesn’t sing btw, and nor do we hear the boys singing which we did in the earlier version).

The story seems slightly different too – but so be it. After this long back story, this is the quote I wanted to give you.

“I found that when I stopped judging myself harshly, the world became kinder to me. Remember I told you once, go out, and look around the world. Do that now. Only this time, let the world look at you. And the difference, I assure you, the world will like what it sees.”

Positive psychology is more than positive thinking

This is the concept which takes positive psychology far beyond positive thinking. It has echoes of the pygmalion effect, popularized in the musical My Fair Lady in which a flower girl becomes a lady. It includes the Galatea effect, ably researched by Dov Eden, who also researches the pygmalion effect in work settings. Basically, the Pygmalion effect is the effect of other people’s expectations on us. So a teacher creates clever pupils by expecting more of them. A teacher creates dull pupils by expecting failure and subtly communicating doubts and restricting the resources and time we need to learn. The Galatea effect works the other way around. It is the effect of our own self-perception.  It is not that seeing is believing. But that, believing is seeing.

Is this new?

George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion 100 years ago. 150 years ago Goethe wrote:

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

The idea that we shape the future is so new to us in the west. The idea that the universe comes to us sounds a little new age.

Of course, we cannot do anything. We don’t want to do anything.

But there are some things, we want to do. And if we can imagine those things, if we believe in them deeply without effort, if they make sense, if they seem right in themselves, if we believe in them enough to take the first hesitant step,

if we believe in them enough to take the first hesitant step,

then the universe conspires to help us.


This is tautological, of course. It will work because it is right and it is right because it works.

Ask only whether what you want is right, and why you would want anything that doesn’t work!


“Go get your things. Dreams mean work”

I discovered Paulo Coelho this year. I am amazed I spent this long on this earth without finding his books.

His stories have mystical settings. By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept is about a woman and her childhood sweetheart who meet up again in their twenties to make a hard decision: should they get together or should he follow his vocation into a Catholic seminary and a life as charismatic and healer?

All Coelho’s books (I think) have a happy ending, but not a silly ending.   After many trials, the protagonists resolve to take the high road: living in solidarity with this world. These may be mystical stories, but they are neither fantasies nor escapist.

And the trials faced by the characters are never gratuitous. Each in itself offers a perspective on relating to the world and, I think, the tension between commitment and uncertainty.

They are a remarkably “open” read too. He has a light style that draws you into the story. And then releases you from time to time to ponder what he or one of his characters has just said.

Wikipedia describes the book as “a week in the life of someone ordinary to whom something extraordinary happens”. Read it at the end of a long week to ponder extraordinary people who live ordinary lives.

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Poetry and essays on the Hero’s Journey

Sometimes during the working day, I arrive at a website.  I have no idea how I got there and I have no idea why I have never been there before.  But there I am, at the place I want to be.

A site with essays and poetry about the Hero’s Journey.

For people new to the Hero’s Journey, the HJ is a narrative form, the structure of a story, that seems to be a suitable way of organizing our stories about our own lives.  Who else is the hero of our journey but ourselves.

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We are ready for more . . .

Don’t blog in a vacuum – comment on other people’s blogs

Any “coldie” as I have heard people from the 1.0 or cold-war era called, will hesitate to take part in online discussions, and is amazed that “post-coldies” do, and quite happily. Do! Do take part!

I have just discovered Barbara Sliter’s site Creatorship and I discovered it in inimitable 2.0 style. I went to the Chief Happiness Officer blog. Alex was doing something with snow (pardon me I’m from Africa); Steve Roesler was guesting; Galba Bright joined the discussion of one of Steve’s posts; he had a look at one of my blog’s and said you will enjoy . . . You are right. Thank you. I do.

Thanks Galba, Steve, Alex and not least, Barbara. If you are interested in leadership, personal development and real-world applications of complexity theory, you should have Creatorship on your feed reader.

The promise of the 21st century

I know a lot of people my age who are rather gloomy about the way the world is going. Change is certainly in the air. Whether we see it as good or bad, depends on the meaning we perceive and more so, on our intuitions about how we will be connected in the new order of things.

That is why I love Barbara Sliter’s site. She has the gift of pointing to a horizon that welcomes everyone, young and old, experienced and inexperienced, from your country and mine.

One excerpt:

“we’re ready for more: more meaning, more challenge, better environments, interesting work, balance in life. We’re ready to be co-creators”


putting Humpty back together again – the psychologist’s challenge

“All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again”.

So goes the nursery rhyme, and for most psychologists, any understanding of a person in his or own terms.

We are trained, for our sins, to be analytical.  I trained other people to be analytical.   And I would still defend our training.  But after we have finished being trained, we have to learn to put Humpty together again.  How does all the information we have collected about someone, amount to a person with a hopes and dreams, with a history and with a future,  and with fears and determination.

Two key ideas for  understanding people

The first is the idea of a sense of self, that, through whatever means, begins to take shape quite early.

“Hold to your own truth, at the center of the image, you were born with”.   (David Whyte, p. 349, River Flow).

Well, maybe you weren’t born with it, but you probably started exploring images of who you are, quite early in your life.  And the question is, what images can you remember that you were drawn to?

I will give you an example.  At about 10 years old, I saw an American movie about a basketball team who put some magic bouncy stuff on their shoes.  I had never seen a basketball game in real life, we played netball, but I was fascinated.  Five years later (a long time when you are a kid), our school announced that we were going to drop netball and play basketball.  I immediately, and I mean immediately, within thirty seconds, asked my mother if I could play in the team (with all the expense that implied).  She happily agreed, as I was well known for not being able to catch a ball, and hey presto, I was captain of the Under 15’s within weeks.  How I loved that game and it took me from clutz to school hero.

We all have creative images, though some we aren’t going to blog about, and it is worthwhile thinking about them, because however bizarre they are, they are important to us.

The second key idea, which David Whyte makes again and again, but rather obliquely, is that these images are essentially social.  They talk to our relationship with the world and the relationship we want with the world.

Now I am not much of an exhibitionist, and I was rather shy as a youngster, but I think I was drawn to two things in the basketball movie: the shared excitement of the crowd and the nippiness of the game.  And those are the roles I played.   The fast break specialist and the ‘man-to-man’ marker.  These are results-oriented ‘closing roles’, bringing home the bacon so to speak, and roles which the crowds understand and set them alight. For someone lousy at sport, this was gratifying.  It was something I could do in a sports-mad school that helped me learn about how crowds become excited and why we enjoy it so much.

We weave our story from a young age.  We see movies quite by chance, and are taken by some and not by others.  Opportunities arise, and we respond to some and not to others.  And we move on, giving up pursuits of our childhood and adopting others.   It is always our story though, woven partly from chance encounters and partly through choice.  We learn as we go, working out what’s next, from the story we are telling to the world and ourselves.

Understanding this story, delighting in this story, cherishing this story, is the privilege of the existential coach.

We are happier as workmates and colleagues when our story is heard and when our current circumstances are woven in to what went before and what will come soon after.  There is no right or wrong.  Simply the unself-conscious bringing of who we have been, to whom we are with, and the celebration of the richness of our imagination in the past, with the shy pleasure of the growing imaginative awareness of a gentle birth into the future.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford

If you have never read Steve Jobs’ commencement address, here is a link.  This is Steve Job’s story from dropping out to college to surviving his first life threatening illness.  Read his philosophy of life.

I’ve not read the original before.  Here it is.

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