Thursday, July 29, 2010

When Good Friendships Turn Bad part two

When good frienships go bad Part 2

Since there is nothing so well worth having as friends, never lose a chance to make them.
Francesco Guicciardini

Friendships happen as we find some characteristic that we initially admire and are ultimately drawn toward. As in any relationship over time, the things we admire and find attractive often become the things that irritate us. There are a myriad of reasons for a friendship to go bad, but in my experience there are usually unknown factors, that were they better understood, could strengthen the relationship rather than conclude it.

I always felt that the great high privilege, relief and comfort of friendship, was that one had to explain nothing.
Katherine Mansfield

I love that quote, it epitomizes the DNA of friendship. When one has to defend ones character or decision making in order to maintain the relationship, that friendship is already in danger of going bad. I suppose its part of today’s values system that is found in a disposable society. Decisions no longer form part of the common good, rather our selfish intent. The older generation were foolish enough to believe “till death us do part,” meant that. No clauses, no loop holes, just pure fortitude and a “work it out” mentality. I was fortunate enough to see that principle in action through my parents.

I have found that the greater the relationship, the fewer the rules are needed to sustain it. As a parent raising children, the early stages of the relationship seems to be more of what the child can’t do, than what it can. ‘No” is included in most sentences and the relationship is more of an “I know best”. As ones children grow into mature adults, the relationship changes. Now we solicit their opinions and engage in a frank exchange of views, even if we disagree with their decision, we honour the relationship and remain available if things go wrong. That’s what friends do, isn’t it?

Many a person has held close, throughout their entire lives, two friends that always remained strange to one another, because one of them attracted by virtue of similarity, the other by difference.
Emil Ludwig

Most relationships break down through misunderstanding. Poor or corrupt communication, serves only to inflame a situation and words used as weapons, will build an impenetrable hedge of offence. In my years of counseling, I can assure you that an offense taken personally can ruin lives. An offense taken on behalf of another is even more disabling, as it creates a triangle of association. I have known entire organizations that are crippled in their mission and interpersonal relationships as a result of an historical offence, and it all happened with someone taking the bait.

The word scandalize, comes from a root word called “scandalon”. Its meaning (in old English terms) was a strip of leather that hunters would use to hang a piece of meat over a pit. The wild animal would come along and reach out to snag the tasty morsel, but instead of having a nice feed; it would over balance and fall into the pit, becoming trapped.

How tempting is it, to take the bait of offence and scandalize for our own ends, only to become entrapped with its consequences?

“When you are offended at any man's fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.” Epictetus

A brother offended [is harder to be won] than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle. Proverbs 18:19. NASB

Sadly, many of us seek to take the moral high ground over an issue, rather than just saying sorry. Sorry doesn’t mean you are wrong, it just means you prefer to lose the argument and keep the friendship.

It takes a long time to grow an old friend. John Leonard

When good friendships go bad, it requires one to place a higher value on the friendship. Making friends is the easy part, keeping them through the issues of life requires courage. If we think we are spiritual then we are the ones that should show it. Galatians 6:1-2

A single rose can be my garden... a single friend, my world. Leo Buscaglia

Finally, why not consider the following quote:

I value the friend who for me finds time on his calendar, but I cherish the friend who for me does not consult his calendar. Robert Brault

Monday, July 26, 2010

When Good Friendships Turn Bad

When Good Friendships Turn Bad:

I don't need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better. Plutarch

It’s happened to most of us and if it hasn’t happened yet, brace yourself, because it probably will. Despite our best intentions and attempts, good friendships can and do turn bad.

Many years ago as a tutor working with unemployed youngsters, I met a young man who was infectious in his zeal for life and fun. As soon as he arrived at the facility, he began laughing and joking with his counterparts and within days was the centre of most activity. Pretty soon the laughter turned to raised voices and anguish, as tempers flared with disagreements emerging. What had begun as a positive start to his course had deteriorated into his decision to quit and move on. I remember questioning him as to the source of the issue and his response was stunning. “I have never had problems making friends, I just can’t keep them”.

Since there is nothing so well worth having as friends, never lose a chance to make them. Francesco Guicciardini

In my City, statistics tell me that people move house once every five years and change their job every three to five years. We live in a time where consistency of employment and commitment to our employer is not as it were thirty years ago. Gone are the days of one employer for life. If you are living in the home where you were born, you are unique. This means that the likely hood of us continuing our childhood friendships is rare. If you are, you are truly blessed.

The bird a nest, the spider a web, man, friendship.
William Blake

With every new encounter comes the opportunity to begin afresh. Most of us relish new challenges as any failures can be left where they belong. Sadly, this makes for a transient attitude towards commitment and in particular longevity in friendships.

One of the buzz words that permeate through most organizations these days is “Leadership.” Another one is “Mentoring.” Also the term “Coaching,” has become popular. All these terms infer influence from one person to another. In my early career days it was the term “Apprentice.” I prefer the term “Friendship,” but that requires more than the input of my skills and knowledge, it requires my all. Good, bad and ugly!

In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.
Albert Schweitzer

The power of friendship is perhaps one of the greatest gifts a human being can experience. It can empower us to take on the impossible, to venture into realms of the unthinkable. In simpler terms, it can make life worth living. I don’t believe life was meant to be a solitary experience in fact I believe we excel with others to share the journey and load. But what happens when good friendships turn bad? What would a good friend do in such circumstances?

We call that person who has lost his father, an orphan; and a widower that man who has lost his wife. But that man who has known the immense unhappiness of losing a friend, by what name do we call him? Here every language is silent and holds its peace in impotence.
Joseph Roux

Most of the tragedies’ in life don’t require an answer or a verbal response. If they did, chances are, words wouldn’t cut it anyway. As humans, we respond to warm support. On the death of my father (my best friend in life), there were no words that could satisfy my loss. What helped was a strong warm hug from an old school friend whose eyes were as full as mine.

The sad part in life is those friends are few and far between. We become so pre-occupied with the affairs of life and living, that we miss more opportunities to strengthen our friendships than we connect with.

Friendships take time, and they are forged primarily in times of misunderstanding and need. “A friend in need is a friend indeed” and without doubt, the true friendships we hold to, are those we are committed to despite opportunities to sever them.

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.
Henri Nouwen

Let me ask you a powerful question? It’s one of those questions that reveal more about oneself than facilitating information.

Make a list of those past friendships you once held important to yourself and alongside their names identify whether you are the richer or poorer for no longer having them in your life?

Further to that list, ask yourself this question. “Am I the type of friend I want as my friend?”

True friendships are forged by a decision of our will, not by our shifting emotions. To have friends one must first be friendly.

You can always tell a real friend: when you've made a fool of yourself he doesn't feel you've done a permanent job.
Laurence J. Peter

The Tests Of Life part 2

The Tests Of Life part two

Perhaps the biggest challenges in life are those which come when least expected. When one can prepare one’s self for a pending disaster, one has a sense of preparation, which builds a level of confidence. Not so, with those “out of the blue” experiences. These are the ones that often take the wind out of our sails and throw the compass off “true north”.

“True heroism consists in being superior to the ills of life, in whatever shape they may challenge us to combat” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

I believe the only thing we take with us when we die, is the character we formed whilst on it. Not the accolade of man, nor the trappings and treasures we have accumulated. The legacy we leave behind is the example we showed during the times of adversity and blessing. Yes that’s right! The way we handle good times is equally as challenging to our character as the bad times.

“Praise and criticism should go in the rubbish bin”. This was a piece of wisdom I was given in my formative years of public speaking. Both can kill you. Either ones ego becomes bolstered and we get a big head or it gets deflated and we lack confidence to continue.

“The Lord gets His best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction.”
Charles H. Spurgeon (English preacher of 19th century 1834-1892)

Life has the capacity to makes us “bitter or better”. Like the analogy of the uncut diamond, its true beauty is only created under extreme pressure and released through being ground and cut. Amazingly, its true value is only ever achieved when the work has been done. As with life, it will either polish us up or grind us down.

If we are smart in handling the tests in life, we will be better equipped when they come around next time. The tests we encounter in life are constant. They are not like a grade test; they are continual. The way we respond to them determines their frequency.

“Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.” Charles H. Spurgeon

Seasons come around each year and with them comes preparation particular to that season. The key is being prepared with the tools that are applicable to that season. Have you ever tried to plant potatoes or strawberries in winter? Not only is the ground hard and difficult to prepare, but any effort to plant, will soon suffer the consequences of that season.

Here are some tests that we all face during our lifetime.

1. The Time Test - Not everything happens as we would like it. However, all things in life have a time frame that if we mess with, we suffer the consequences. A premature baby requires more resources, more attention and care, so it is with a dream or vision that is ahead of its time. Your gift and talent may well open the door for you, but it’s your character that will keep you there. Character is formed through tests. Hijack this process and rest assured there will be a re-sit.

2. The Character Test – Boundaries and Values:
'Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are'. John Wooden, former coach of the UCLA Bruins basketball team, quoted in Sanctity of Life, C. Swindoll, Word, 1990, p. 91.

“If we don’t stand for something we will fall for anything”.

Boundaries are imposed limits that both restrict and safeguard our limitations. To live outside of a boundary is to welcome tests. These are laws.
“Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is. If there are rats in a cellar, you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats; it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way, the suddenness of the provocation does not make me ill-tempered; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. C.S.Lewis

One of my mentors (some 20 years ago), told me what he considered to be the two most important criteria for selecting his male leaders.

1. Whether they picked litter up or walked past it.
2. How they treat their wives.

It never made sense to me until years later and now it does.

Fame is a vapor,
Popularity an accident.
Riches take wings.
Only one thing endures,
Horace Greely

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Tests Of Life part 1

The Tests Of Life Part One

Fact: You blink twenty five times every minute. Each blink takes you about one-fifth of a second. Therefore, if you take a ten-hour car trip, averaging forty miles per hour, you will drive twenty miles with your eyes CLOSED.

A fact that is far more surprising than that. Some people go through LIFE with their eyes closed. They look but don't really "see" They observe the surface but omit the underneath.

Vision is present but perception is lost.

To those who lack this perception:

• If life were a painting, they would see colors but no genius in the strokes of the brush.
• If it were a journey, they would notice a road but not the awesome scenery.
• If it were a meal, they would eat and drink but they would overlook the exquisite beauty of the china and the delicate touch of wine in the sauce.
• If it were a poem, they would read print on the page but miss altogether the
passion of the poet..

Remove insight and suddenly we reduce life to existence with frequent flashes of boredom and indifference.

There's a lot of difference between necessary blinking and unnecessary blindness.

To be a person that has the spirit to overcome the challenges and tests in life we have to "Change" three things.

a) Ones Perspective of trouble has to change (how you view things)
b) Ones Response to trouble has to change (how you respond to things)
c) Ones Application to trouble has to change (how you learn from things

The tests and challenges one is exposed to, define ones strengths and weaknesses. It is the way we respond to such issues that determine our capacity to overcome.

The story is told of the Donkey who is thrown into a pit due to his obstinate attitude towards the farmers wishes. The farmer threw all his garbage into the pit each day and each day, the donkey climbed onto the pile and found something to eat out of it. Three weeks later the Donkey was found wandering around the field again. He had found something to feed on out of the rubbish and the rest he used to stand on and climb out of the pit.

Have you trained yourself to focus on the benefits brought through tests, to take what life throws at you and use it to your advantage?

• It's the "Inner weaknesses" that effect our "Outward strengths"
• All tests reveal Attitudes and Motives
• The value of a Test is not found in the test but what the test reveals in oneself.
• Every circumstance in our life is tailor made for us (made to measure). Not a one size fits all mentality.

There are challenges I face in life that you would probably shrug off, yet there are tests that I would confidently pass that you may fail at. Why, because we are different. We are unique and all at different stages along the path of life.

One of my favourite quotes is by Martin Luther King Jr. “The true measure of a man is not how he behaves in moments of comfort and convenience but how he stands at times of controversy and challenges”.

Can I encourage you to keep in mind such words of wisdom when your day turns into a stormy challenge, for it is only when we come out of the other side of the storm, that we recognise the personal growth that has taken place? For those of you in the eye of the storm right now, hang in there and you will be amazed at the personal resources at your disposal next time round.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Time Flys Like The Wind

"Time Flys Like The Wind, but Fruit Flies Like Bananas".

Don't ask me why, but that saying has followed me around since my early days of attempting humour and it is most likely from a Tommy Cooper or Spike Millegan sketch. Its great to be able to keep things in perspective and humour has a way of levelling all knowledge to the lowest common denominator.
Time on the other hand, is a very serious thing and once lost can never be regained.

The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot. Michael Altshuler

Ordinary people think merely of spending time. Great people think of using it. Anon

I found this poem in my teaching notes and although I have little information on the writer, it is one of those pieces that serves to grab your heart. Especially if you too have raised children and lived to look back over those formative years of parenting. Most grand parents, seem to do a great job of parenting their grand children and I am sure its because time has a way of being better prioritised and valued as we age.

No Time to Play
My precious boy with the golden hair
Came up one day beside my chair
And fell upon his bended knee
And said, “Oh, Mommy, please play with me!”

I said, “Not now, go on and play;
I’ve got so much to do today.”
He smiled through tears in eyes so blue
When I said, “We’ll play when I get through.”

But the chores lasted all through the day
And I never did find time to play.
When supper was over and dishes done,
I was much too tired for my little son.

I tucked him in and kissed his cheek
And watched my angel fall asleep.
As I tossed and turned upon my bed,
Those words kept ringing in my head,

“Not now, son, go on and play,
I’ve got so much to do today.”
I fell asleep and in a minute’s span,
My little boy is a full-grown man.

No toys are there to clutter the floor;
No dirty fingerprints on the door;
No snacks to fix; no tears to dry;
The rooms just echo my lonely sigh.

And now I’ve got the time to play;
But my precious boy is gone away.
I awoke myself with a pitiful scream
And realized it was just a dream

For across the room in his little bed,
Lay my curly-haired boy, the sleepy-head.
My work will wait ‘til another day
For now I must find some time to play.
Dianna (Mrs. Joe) Neal.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tempus neminem manet - Time waits for no one

Tempus neminem manet - Time waits for no one

"When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a Second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That's relativity." -Albert Einstein, (on his theory of relativity).

Perhaps the most important commodity we have as humans is in the realm of time. Whilst I have never really been a clock watcher, I am governed by time just as yourself. Time seems to have greater meaning, relative to our age and responsibilities. One thing for sure, is it does seem to speed up the older we get. All things are relative.

Empowering Vision

I have worked for the past twenty five years advising and assisting people to find their personal and corporate vision, to better accommodate their hopes for the future. It never ceases to amaze me how many people can meander through life from one situation to another, without taking the time to define their life purpose.

"Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save." – Will Rogers.

Living life without a defined purpose is like setting out on a journey without the use of a compass or map. It may well provide excitement for the first few days or weeks, but after thirty, forty or fifty years! Whew!

Unfortunately though, how sad it is to treat life as a daily existence. So many people live life that way, and this is living life at its poorest form.

Learn from yesterday, Live for today and always have Hope for tomorrow.

Playing my part:

Sir Michael Costa was conducting a rehearsal in which the orchestra was joined in a great chorus. About half way through the session, with the trumpets blaring, Drums rolling, and violins singing their rich melody, the Piccolo player muttered to himself, what good am I doing? I might as well not be playing. Nobody can hear me anyway! So he placed his instrument to his lips but made no sound. Within moments the conductor cried, stop! Stop! Stop! Where is the piccolo?

Perhaps many people didn't realise that the piccolo was missing, but the most important person did. So it is with our life. Our creator knows when we don't play the part that is assigned to us, even if others don't.

Let me leave you with this thought by Carl Sandburg:

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you”.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What a difference a day makes.

What a difference a day makes

Over the recent weeks, I have been humming a song that has had me thinking about the words. “What a difference a day makes, twenty four little hours”. (Esther Philips) Twenty four hours can mean the difference between death and life, despair and hope, failure and success, losing and winning, sad and happy, the end or the beginning. Yes indeed, what a difference a day makes.

Imagine a bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400.
It carries over no balance from day to day.
Every evening deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day.
What would you do?

Draw out ALL OF IT, of course!

Each of us has such a bank. Its name is TIME.
Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose.
It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of that day.

There is no going back. There is no drawing against the "tomorrow.

To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.
To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby.
To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realize the value of ONE DAY ask a grieving person
To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the train.
To realize the value of ONE-SECOND, ask a person who just avoided an accident.
To realize the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won silver at the Olympics.

I once had the privilege of talking to one of our Olympic gold medallists in the doubles rowing. He told me that he and his partner would train for four years to shave a second of their personal best. It seems somewhat ironic to give four years of one’s life to get a second back?

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present!

There are some things that have intrinsic value and others eternal. I trust that you become a wise timekeeper of that which one is allotted, for what a difference a day makes and that difference is YOU

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Trails End

One of my all time favourite films is “City Slickers.” A story of four friends working through their mid-life crisis, whilst learning to drove cattle through a perilous range. Fraught with mishaps and personal crisis, the journey is all about discovering ones personal values in life and in particular "the one thing" that shapes and directs who we are and yes, what inspired me to write the book and produce the D.V.D. series of the same name.

As funny as the film is, it is a jolt to us all on keeping perspective in life and living. When I was a younger man, I would laugh at the term "mid-life" crisis. A little further down the trail and now I recognize the characters from the film as bastions of rhyme and reason. Prophetic characters from a wilderness of lost expectation and he tyranny of the urgent. These days, I am more interested in quality than quantity.

Billy Crystal who played the character Mitch Robbins is talking at his sons "show and tell" grade class about "what my dad does at work."

Value this time in your life kids, because this is the time in your life when you still have your choices, and it goes by so quickly. When you're a teenager you think you can do anything, and you do. Your twenties are a blur. Your thirties, you raise your family, you make a little money and you think to yourself, "What happened to my twenties?" Your forties, you grow a little pot belly you grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud and one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. Your fifties you have a minor surgery. You'll call it a procedure, but it's a surgery. Your sixties you have a major surgery, the music is still loud but it doesn't matter because you can't hear it anyway. Seventies, you and the wife retire to Fort Lauderdale, you start eating dinner at two, lunch around ten, breakfast the night before. And you spend most of your time wandering around malls looking for the ultimate in soft yogurt and muttering "how come the kids don't call?" By your eighties, you've had a major stroke, and you end up babbling to some Jamaican nurse who your wife can't stand but who you call mama. Any questions?

What an hilarious but tragic picture of a life lived so fast that at the end of the race all is a blur. I don't suppose any of us would in our darkest hours imagine that image could represent us? No WAY!!! ahumm.

We need some more wisdom from the trail hands, lol.

1.Never slap a man who's chewing tobacco.

2.Always drink upstream from the herd.

3.There's two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither one works.

4.Never miss a good chance to shut up.

5.We can't all be heroes because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.

6.Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.

7.The best way out of a difficulty is through it.

8.There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence.

9.What the country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds.

10.Diplomacy is the art of saying "Nice doggie" until you can find a rock.

11.An onion can make people cry but there's never been a vegetable that can make people laugh.

12.If you're riding' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there.

13.Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier 'n puttin' it back.

14.Don't squat with your spurs on.

16.If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.

17.It don't take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.

Oh and number 15

Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll enjoy it a second time.

Oh and 15. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll enjoy it a second time.

Secret Millionaire

Secret Millionaire.

One of my favourite programmes on TV presently is “Secret Millionaire”. This new breed of documentary (which originated in UK and first screened in 2006), has a simple plot. Take a person of immense financial privilege and place them incognito into a geographical area of extreme lack and disparity, where their privilege and networks mean nothing. Give them housing and a financial allowance the same as an unemployment beneficiary and let them find voluntary work in the community and you have a study of human nature, par excellence.

I can’t remember a single programme that hasn’t had me in tears, as we see the human spirit soar to the heights of “humanity” at its best. Whilst it is impossible to truly know the impact on the people involved, from a viewing perspective, it would be fair to say that the characters that appear to have been impacted the most are usually the millionaires. Each programme concludes with the core purpose of the series, (to give away some of their money to those they have found to be worthy recipients).

With each programme, the “secret millionaire” (youtube) makes some profoundly soul shaking discoveries about themselves and the world that they have become isolated from. It almost always re-connects them to their fellow man and inspires them to view their life from a new and empowered vantage point. It would be fair to say that those on the receiving end of these “secret millionaires” gifts, have their faith in mankind (and womankind) re-affirmed, as they are further resourced in their passion of serving their communities. It’s powerful, heartwarming and some of the most positive viewing I have seen in years. Is there spin involved? probably, but we get spin in negative TV as well. Why not for a few moments in time focus on something that builds rather than pulls down. Thats what Iv'e been thinking anyway.

So what can we learn from the series?

1. Giving is still one of the most endearing characteristics of mankind
Pre-occupation with our own needs is perhaps the single most disempowering act for our community. When we give, we change.

2. Serving someone else’s passion is a powerful way to personally connect with them.
The story is told of the chicken and the pig, whilst walking past a restaurant begin to talk about Bacon and Eggs and the chicken suggests they open a restaurant. The pig replies “Its fine for you, as you’d be involved but I would be committed.”

3. Open a person’s heart and you open up their vision (and cheque book)
Some people know the cost of everything but the value of nothing. True value is not in what comes to us, but what “flows through us” The principle of “sowing and reaping” is applicable in all areas of life.

4. You don’t have to be a millionaire to make a difference, but it helps to be generous
The story is told of a tourist lost in the centre of Dublin who asks a local resident for directions to Chancery Street. “Well if I was you”, said the local, “I wouldn’t start from here.” Truth is, we can only ever start from where we are now. It’s not what you need, but what you have, that counts.

5. Thank God for volunteers around the world.
Being pre-occupied is no excuse for serving outside of your own need. Millions of people world- wide gives of their time “freely” in pursuit of their fellow man. Even the lives of millionaires can change if we connect with the man in the street.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cowboy Wisdom part 2

Cowboy Wisdom part 2
In the Biblical sense, wisdom is the "ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action, based on knowledge and understanding" (Lockyer).

Were you to do a search on the internet to define wisdom, you would get a whole heap of returns that give only a definition. Wisdom, doesn’t just sound right, it works in the storm. Many people attribute education to wisdom when in fact it has little to do with wisdom. Why? Because education prepares you for life and living but it doesn’t guarantee that it will be used in a wise way.

I like these definitions:
• Accumulated knowledge or erudition or enlightenment
• The trait of utilizing knowledge and experience with common sense and insight
• The quality of being prudent and sensible

Years ago, part of my University studies included business management. Our lecturer had officially filed for bankruptcy three times. (Today we politely call it “going into receivership or liquidation”) and had overseen the closure of all three businesses he managed. He held an MBA and a majour in accountancy with a business law degree. Whilst his education prepared him for life, I wouldn’t say it was applied with wisdom, although one could argue he is better equipped today, having experienced these failures.

Life is like that, we learn wisdom more from our experiences than we do from an education devoid of application. As a food lecturer, I understand that a recipe has two key components, and without the skill of appropriation, they are equally useless. The keys are:

1. A list of ingredients
2. A method of application

Wisdom similarly, requires the same approach.

1. The situation to hand
2. The appropriate application or method of action.

Now every recipe book I have ever read, (or written), makes the fundamental assumption that you understand your ingredients! Fact is, there are many fundamental errors that can result in a failed recipe. Experience tells us as professional chefs that “a working knowledge” of kitchen etiquette is the hidden factor for success. That comes about by pitting our education (taught skills), against our learned skills (experience) this is applied knowledge or wisdom. The hidden factor for success in either cooking or wisdom is timing and that comes by a life lived.

More Gems from the men in hats:

* Always drink upstream from the herd.
* Generally, you ain't learnin' nothing when your mouth's a-jawin'.
* Tellin' a man to git lost and makin' himdo it are two entirely different propositions.
* If you're ridin' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there with ya.
* Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
* When you give a personal lesson in meanness to a critter or to a person, don't be surprised if they learn their lesson.
* When you're throwin' your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.
* Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it back.
* Always take a good look at what you're about to eat. It's not so important to know what it is, but it's sure crucial to know what it was.
* The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back into your pocket.
* You can't tell how good a man or a watermelon is 'til they get thumped.(Character shows up best when tested.)
* Never miss a good chance to shut up.
* If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen are defrocked, shouldn't it follow that cowboys would be deranged?
*There never was a horse that couldn't be rode; Never was a cowboy who couldn't be throwed.

Perhaps the last word should come from the headstone of the Duke himself:

"Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learnt something from yesterday."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cowboy Wisdom part 1

Ever been in a situation where you seem at a loss to resolve it, yet someone has made a comment and although it doesn’t provide an immediate answer, it somehow makes sense. If nothing else it gives you a laugh and that in itself jollies you along.

I collect interesting thoughts and little ditties, which I have rolling along my desktop screensaver. Some years ago, I came across a batch of these comments called “Cowboy Wisdom.” I’ve never been a cowboy, although I do own a “man from Snowy River” hat (all the Aussies will know what I mean, take a youtube peak). It was made famous in the film, “The man from Snowy River”. The Akubra hat has been an icon for many a generation and that is as close to being a cowboy I have ever become. Oh wait, I do like John Wayne films..does that qualify?

Wisdom is applied understanding. It is found not in the hallowed halls of learning but rather on the plains among the people. On the high seas of life amidst the storms that come along. Wisdom can make an inferior person strong whilst lack of it can make a superior person weak. Wisdom is nurtured in the cauldron of life’s challenges and we should embrace its refining as a child would a fluffy toy, as it surely will be a lamp unto our feet in times of darkness.

Here are some gems I have gleaned over the years. I can’t take credit for them, just as Solomon could not lay claim to his; however should you know of other gems I would love to know their fount and source.

-- Authors Unknown

Don't name a pig you plan to eat.

Country fences need to be horse high, pig tight, and bull strong.

Life is not about how fast you run, or how high you climb, but how well you bounce.

Keep skunks and bankers at a distance.

Life is simpler when you plough around the stump.

A bumble bee is faster than a John Deere tractor.

Words that soak into your ears are whispered, not yelled.

Meanness don't happen overnight.

Forgive your enemies. It messes with their heads.

Don't sell your mule to buy a plough.

Don't corner something meaner than you.

It don't take a very big person to carry a grudge.

You can't unsay a cruel thing.

Every path has some puddles.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Make em Laugh part 2 :)

Make em laugh Part 2

Laughter is infectious. It has a curious way of drawing people to it. It can change the atmosphere as quickly as switching on a light. In the formative years of life, we learn to laugh without language or props. A baby will respond without the provocation of witty dialogue. A smile or a BOO! Will do it!

As we grow and become more sophisticated with education, we can lose, or mask the simplistic approach to fun. Sadly, there are now classes held around the world to teach people to laugh! Drop around to my place and I guarantee you will find your sense of humour before the first laxative takes hold.

Successful teams, are teams that approach their objectives with the ability to make light of heavy going. I don’t mean making a mockery of serious stuff, but releasing the tension out of a potentially volatile situation.

Many years ago, as an exec chef, I had taken over a struggling food outlet. The previous boss had ruled with an iron fist and as a result had intimidated the staff to the point of abuse.

I was about to whip forty liters of cream in the commercial beater. Instead of my usual safety check, I just hit the start button. In one overwhelming burst of madness, the whole of the contents of the bowl hurtled in every imaginable direction, drenching me from head to toe in half the cream and the remainder on the ceiling, walls, and floor. You could hear a pin drop as every worker stopped their work and waited for my response. I took one finger and dragged it over my face gathering some of the spilled cream and licked it. With a giggle in my voice I said, “It needs more sugar” and walked out of the kitchen to get a change of uniform. On my return, the atmosphere had changed, the people had identified with me and we became a team. This team were to become some of my greatest supporters in the years to come.

Here are some practical ways to lighten the load :

• Flash your ivories. Smiling is one sure way to get a response. People will either smile back or try to figure out what you are on! Smiling is the beginning of laughter and laughter is contagious. We don’t need a reason to smile, train yourself to do it. I am a smiley person and I am always getting people smiling back. So often that I am often being asked by those that are with me, “do you know that person?” and the answer is mostly, No. The smile opens up opportunities to speak and speaking is a way to get to make friends. Try it, it works!

• Consider the good stuff. Try listing some of the good things in your life. It’s a powerful way of counteracting the difficult stuff. Our thought life directly reflects our mood. My mother had a saying “I complained about having no shoes until I met a man who had no feet". I am always around people who are underprivileged in life and it is a constant reminder of the privileged life I lead. Visit the cancer ward of your local hospital and then tell me you lack in life.

• When laughter is heard, seek it out. There was a common statement that the secretaries said, when people came looking for me at my office. ‘Just follow the laughter”. I loved that being said of me! What a compliment. Sometimes humour and laughter is a private matter, but in my experience, I like people who want a laugh. As part of my role, I counsel people over pretty serious and painful situations. Often at the outset there is no place for humour, but on more than one occasion, staff would appear at my door wondering what the laughter was all about? Later on I would be asked “How come such a tense situation became so funny” I’d say, ‘Have you ever listened to my counsel”.

• Seek out fun people. Find the party! I have always gravitated to people that can see the funny side of life. I remember some years ago, interviewing a bunch of potential secretaries, and always seem to settle on the one with the best sense of humour, but the least appropriate for the job. The companies P.A. would be in fits of uncontrollable laughter as she watched me go through the process, for she knew that ultimately the “new” secretary would ‘go onto better things” and the process would begin again. Why? Because I had a knack of inspiring people to come out of their shell and the basis of this was humour. My filing cabinets always remained a source of mystery, but we had some fun times.

• Look for opportunities to use humour in conversations. I can find humour in the most serious of situations, but they are not always the most appropriate forums to use it. Humour is often influenced by our culture and nationality. I speak at conferences and meetings internationally and often language can be a barrier to understanding. Ironically, I have had some of the funniest situations take place despite it. If we make a point using humour to lighten a situation, we increase our chances of receptivity.

Here are some of the health benefits of laughter

Physical Health Benefits:
• Boosts immunity
• Lowers stress hormones
• Decreases pain
• Relaxes your muscles
• Prevents heart disease

Mental Health Benefits:
• Adds joy and zest to life
• Eases anxiety and fear
• Relieves stress
• Improves mood
• Enhances resilience

Social Benefits:
• Strengthens relationships
• Attracts others to us
• Enhances teamwork
• Helps defuse conflict
• Promotes group bonding

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Make em laugh, make em laugh part 1.

Have you ever been driving behind another vehicle and glanced at the vehicle in front, only to notice some witty phrase that about sums life up in a single statement? Or happen to see some graffiti poet making light of a serious situation?
I am a bit of a gatherer of facts. I love finding amusing ditties or notes posted around. In particular, a raison d’ĂȘtre of one line, that adds a measure of irony, humour and wisdom at the same time. Regardless of social standing, ethnicity or language, there is something about humour that lightens the load and makes the journey somewhat enjoyable. I love funny people and spend much of my time searching them out. At school, I and most of my friends would be found outside the headmasters office explaining a “prank gone wrong”, or why we were disrupting the class with some inane attempt to “oil the wheels” of a squeaky day. Years later as a teacher, lecturer, and public speaker, I am still at it.

Spike Milligan, influenced my life quite profoundly as I was growing up. His humour, whilst witty was incredibly easy to understand and apply. Often I would find myself (not that I was lost), in the playground reiterating one of his phrases, with some bizarre voice contortion, that was funnier than the words I spoke. Humour is a powerful emotion. It can add a sense of sanity in an insane situation. I was never good at fighting in school, so I adopted a sense of humour and amazingly, few people wanted to bash me. I got invited to parties and built strong friendships with the class idiots. Whilst others were academically achieving, we were at the back of the class wondering what we could do with a ball of string, a cobbler’s wax and three fused liquorice allsorts. Amazingly, it all worked out and I often afford myself a quiet giggle as I am lecturing at seminars to people with Doctorates, Masters and a myriad of letters after their name. I still have the cobblers wax.

So what (if anything) can humour teach us?

Humour and Health
When health has deteriorated it becomes harder to smile and to laugh. There is a greater risk of depression with increasing health difficulties. If you experience chronic health conditions such as arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular problems, you may become vulnerable to stress, depression and anxiety. There are studies that indicate the importance of laughter or at least smiling. Here are some well known facts about humour and health.

The Effects of Humour on Our Health

1. IMMUNITY: increased, IgA and IgM and IgG increased in blood after laughter, improved resistance to colds and infections
2. ENDORPHINS & ENCEPHALONS: natural high making chemicals of the body are increased by laughter
3. MUSCULAR relaxation (muscles take 2 hours to return to previous state of tension after belly laugh)
4. LUNGS are helped by laughter expelling residual volume of air, allowing more fresh air to enter lungs
5. EXERCISE Stress hormones reduced (adrenalin and noradrenalin, cortisol
Research by Dr. Bill Fry of Stanford Medical School has established that 100 laughs a day give you as much beneficial exercise as 10 minutes of rowing - and without the agonised expression that rowers, stationery cyclists and joggers customarily have on their faces. A study at the University of Maryland has shown that laughing regularly offers some protection against heart attacks.

Spike Milligan in life was a veritable source of fun and inspiration. In his death he is still making em laugh as the epitaph that he had chiseled in his headstone says “I told you I was ill”.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Iv'e Been Thinking - Living Between The Dash

Living Life Between The Dash

Several years ago, I was visiting my parent’s grave site on a cold and wintry afternoon in late February. As you can imagine it was fraught with emotion and lacking in any sense of purpose or future. As I was wandering aimlessly around the cemetery, I was taken with the numerous grave sites with headstones embellished with words which in most cases had been kept to twenty six or less, in order to fit on the stone. I was quite tearful as my parent’s stone hadn't been unveiled as yet and we were all in a quandary as to how we could limit a person’s life to twenty six words or less. It struck me as I pondered the headstones, how almost all of them had a dash entered between the dates of “Born” and “Died”.

Joseph Thomas January 14Th 1924 – February 14Th 2008.

That “dash” represented the sum total of the person’s existence. Just one simple hyphen, a mere nudge of a chisel and all their dreams, hopes, celebrations of joy along with their fears and anxiety, recorded in stone. Their lives (as with ours), were expressed in a finite expression of living life between the "dash".

Whilst this symbol of a life lived, is crass in its attempt to summarize one’s life, it is a stark reminder of the importance of (at the least), living life full and dying spent. As the old saying goes “many die with the music still in them”. Life was never intended to be lived cautiously or reserved. It was meant to be lived to the full. Live life full, but die spent.

Spent is a term often associated with wild salmon, whose sole purpose in life is to fulfill their lives journey and return to their birth place, to give life to future generations. Burned into their DNA is their reason for existence. No holding back for finer weather or better options.
By journeys end, each salmon lays beaten up and scarred by the ravages of the river and obstacles within its path, but never the less, its in-built purpose spurred it on to complete the course. Its life purpose was both the fuel and the target.

Is there any finer cause for mankind, than navigating ones life through the challenges of living, in the pursuit of advancing the cause of another?
This same unselfish motive should be ours by intent. This is living life between the "dash".

“Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die; and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of life and the duty of life. Both life and death are parts of the same Great Adventure”. -Theodore Roosevelt

I like yourself, have had sufficient challenges to justify rest in the still pools beside the raging rivers of life and for a time such rest is essential in re-focusing on the next stage of our journey. Ultimately, when strength and reason return, we will take our place between the dash. Not for our sakes, but for the advancement of the generation yet to experience the joy of living life to the full.

In the days ahead, I trust you will re-affirm the life you live, "between the dash."

Friday, July 2, 2010

Iv'e Been Thinking: Things I Have Learned - When Good Enough Isn't Goo...

Iv'e Been Thinking: Things I Have Learned - When Good Enough Isn't Goo...: "Human nature is fascinating! Throughout life, we are all faced with daily issues that challenge, excite and shape us. Most of us woul..."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Iv'e Been Thinking - Cones, The Silent Invasion

I was driving homeward on my usual route when all of a sudden the road ahead had turned from its normal tree lined aspect to a blur of orange and white. Netherlands supporters I thought, a riot of blazing orange traffic cones, had assaulted my space and offended my sensitivities. Where do they come from?

They littered the roadside just as a dog would shake its wet coat in every direction. Then I got to thinking about this most used and abused icon of the world’s highways and byways.

Did you realize that the first traffic cone appeared in New York in 1914 and attributed to Charles P Rudabaker. His first design was made in concrete. Since then the humble cone has infested roadways and marshaled drivers from every Nation around the world. No one knows the population of these cones nor the numbers produced each year. We do know that Taiwan and China pump out a million each month @ $10 each. The University of Texas buys 600 per year and drunks world-wide, gather them on returning home from the pub.

Cone removal (let’s not say stealing) is part of the unwritten core curriculum @ every University around the world and there is almost a written rule that requires their placement in the most amusing of situations. In Auckland a cone even appeared atop the Sky Tower, (our tallest Building). Apparently the most popular spot in Scotland is on the head of the statue of the Duke of Wellington outside the Gallery of Modern Art museum in Glasgow, and sightings have been recorded on most iconic buildings, statues and in trees. In fact I can attribute to personally rescuing many a lonely cone from the chill of a winter’s night, into the warmth and safety of my home, only to see it evicted in the morning (along with myself).

There is even a society for the preservation of cones and a Guinness book of records for the most collected cones, (Englishman of course) and although the most popular colour is Orange, the colours are limitless as are the materials used in their manufacture. The traffic cone was voted 839th of 1160 nominations as Icons of Britain. How much do you know about the humble cone? Take the online survey. There are web pages to the Appreciation of Cones, Blogs and Commentaries , Cone Art, Cone Liberation Organization , Cones as Pets , Cone Conspiracy , Cones of Literacy, Adopt a Cone, and even Cone Marriage.

Well I got to thinking and here’s the gut’s of it!

1. Have you ever rescued a cone?

2. Where is the remotest place you have seen a cone?

3. Next time you see a lonely cone, why not take a picture and make a Kodak moment, after all, cones dedicate their life to our safety and well-being. For sure, they will be around long after wev'e gone! Maybe you could send me some interesting pictures of "Cone Invasion."

Thanks to Lori O'Conel, who actually took the time to pen this ode to a cone

O stalwart shield of the careless and rash
Egyptians of old built cone temples for you
Orange Angel, you stand, constant and true
Your sacrifice diverting each fatal crash.

What divine hand shaped your perfect form?
What gods stole your color from the sun's rays,
Infused it into that primordial clay
And kissed it to life with the breath of a storm?

How many pass by, never knowing that they
Are sheltered beneath your wings of gold,
Kept safe from the clutches of Death so cold.
But thankless, unmoving, and faithful you stay.

O Sentinel, your spirit no human could tame
Without you, our roads would ne'er be the same.

-Lori O'Conel

Things I Have Learned - When Good Enough Isn't Good Enough

Human nature is fascinating!

Throughout life, we are all faced with daily issues that challenge, excite and shape us. Most of us would say that we appreciate the good things we experience and dislike those which hold us back. For the most part, we are content with the "good things" and content with our good performance.

"The game was really good"
"He did a good job"
"It's for your own good"

These are all common statements that we use and are content with. It expresses that things are fine, acceptable; we are pleased with the outcome. But is good, good enough? "Good is the enemy of best"

Consider the surgeon who operates on the philosophy of good being good enough, when performing open heart surgery!

Or the pilot who is within a degree of his anticipated course - (over the length of a long haul journey, you can actually miss a continent)

Or the Olympic 100 meters sprinter who was 1/10th of a second outside of the world’s best time and gets silver.

Maybe a straight "A" student who was one percent below the pass marks and as a result settles for a "second best" career.

A builder whose foundations are good but not perfect according to the plans, is courting disaster at some point during the storm. Or the accountant, who omits to file your tax return on time, but remembered to go on a world cruise and leave you to it!

You see, there are many times in life when being good just isn't good enough and thankfully, we rest confident in those individuals who shun being good and pursue excellence. Being good is a great place to start, but we should peruse going beyond what is acceptable or good and develop an attitude that takes us into excellence.

Here are some simple things we can all excel in and move beyond the "being good is good enough" behavior.

1. OUR WORD - Never promise that which you know you can't deliver. Being a person of your word, means there will be a cost to you to keep it. I recall a good friend of mine taking his business into receivership because his debtors defaulted on what they owed him. Rather than doing the same to his creditors, he sold his assets and paid off all his debts. When I quizzed him for his reasoning, he said "I gave them my word."

2. OUR ACTIONS- Never do a "good enough" job. What sets you above the crowd is being above average. Average people do average work. I am not saying sell yourself short, but never sell anyone else short either. As an employer and employee, be prepared to go the extra mile.

There is an old Roman custom that authorized any soldier to command a local to carry his amour and kit for one mile. Those with an attitude of excellence carried the armour not for one mile but for two. "Going the extra mile". I make it a point of selecting my team leaders based on their "extra mile" attitude. Clock watchers don’t understand this philosophy and are likely to focus their actions elsewhere.

3. OUR LIFESTYLE- Never let the pursuit of excellence burden others in the process. Being excellent is not an issue of perfection, but an issue of attitude. One can have an excellent attitude and do a less than excellent job, but one can’t have average attitude and do an excellent job.


To be above the norm of average, we need to excel in our view of average. The saying "I can’t hear what your saying, because your LIFE speaks to loud" rings so true of many an average life. "When all is said and done, it's not what's said, but what's done."

Live life to the full, enjoy life extensively but consider the surgeon, pilot, sprinter, or academic. Their excellence, safeguards our choice of being average.