Sunday, December 06, 2009

Exit

Time overseas recently convinced me of the need to take a longer time out from some regular activities such as blogging.

I plan to undertake a stock take of pursuits in my work and play portfolio.

Some things to give up and new challenges to grasp?

Peace!

Geoff

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

See to it that Wonderful Things Happen to You

In a letter to poets in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, Russian Nobel laureate Boris Pasternak observed:

“One must write wonderful things, make discoveries, and see to it that wonderful things happen to you. That is life. The rest is rubbish.”

Thomas Merton, ‘The Literary Essays of Thomas Merton’ ed. Patrick Hart. New York: New Directions, 1981, 89-90.

Thanks to Paul Dekar who uses this quote in a soon to be published new book.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Boris Pasternak.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ernest Levy: A Remarkable Man

Thanks to Barrie Hibbert for passing on this story.

In the October 2009 issue of the magazine Canonmills Baptist Church (Edinburgh), Tom Fleming shares the story of his friend, Ernest Levy
:

News reached me, while I was in hospital in August, of the death of a good friend of mine who had a special connection with Canonmills. He was a Slovakian Jew who, after the war, settled in Glasgow and became the Cantor of the Giffnock and Newlands Synagogue, the largest in this country. His name was the Rev Ernest Levy and he was 84.

Forced in 1938 at the age of 13, to flee with his family to Hungary, they were deported, after the German occupation of that country, to concentration camps where most of them perished. After the last year of the war in Europe, as the Red Army moved West, Ernest, then aged 19, was moved between seven different camps ending up, for a second time, in the notorious death camp at Bergen-Belsen, stripped of every vestige of humanity and suffering from starvation and typhoid. That he survived is something of a miracle.

When I first heard him tell his story, some twenty years ago, I was struck by the fact that here was a holocaust survivor talking without hatred and bitterness. Indeed, he said memorably, “I owe my life to three Germans. I only ever knew them by their first names.

One was Helmut, a guard who befriended me and brought me water and bread when his fellow guards were occupied.

The second was a German farmer called Max who took pity on the two hundred Jewish prisoners forced to shelter in his barn from the bitter winter snow-showers whilst on a forced march. Courageously, Max ignored orders to the contrary and supplied each prisoner with one boiled potato per day for three weeks.

The third was a nursing sister in the German hospital to which I was taken after the liberation of Belsen. Her name was Emma. ‘You must get your strength back and find your family’, she insisted. I replied, ‘They’re all dead’. ‘Well you are alive, and life is precious!’ said the formidable Sister Emma, and she kissed me on the forehead.”

When British soldiers liberated Belsen, one of them found Ernest, semi-conscious, lying face down in the dust by the perimeter fence. At the first talk which I heard Ernest give, the meeting was thrown open for questions at the end. An elderly lady asked him if the terrible things he had suffered had changed him in any way. There was a long pause. “Yes,” Ernest replied quite quietly, “I used to think that God was some Supreme Being who watched what happens in the world from an unsearchable distance. Now I know that God lay with me in the dust of Belsen…”

He came to Canonmills at my invitation on a weeknight about fifteen years ago. The place was packed with about a hundred people. He told his astonishing story, movingly, for about an hour. Then he said, “Tom has specially asked me to tell you about the story of the Sardine Tin.”

So he told the story. It was while they were sheltering in the barn belonging to Max, the German farmer, in the winter of 1944-45. The prisoners were allowed outside, briefly, in daylight hours. Ernest saw one of the S.S. Guards throw away an open tin of sardines. Unseen by his fellow prisoners, Ernest picked up the discarded tin, hoping to find a scrap of fish. The tin was empty apart from some sardine oil. He looked around and saw a piece of string lying in the ice on the ground. He placed one end of the string in the fish oil. After several attempts, he managed to light the other end of the string creating a lamp out of the sardine tin. He concealed the tin until later that night when he lit the makeshift lamp and, with his fellow prisoners gathered in the darkness of the barn around the flickering light, he led them in singing the ancient Chanukkah Hebrew hymn, sung since time immemorial at the midwinter Festival of Lights, the feast of the Re-Dedication of the Temple in the time of the Maccabees:

These lamps which now we light
are in remembrance of the wondrous deeds
that You performed for our fathers of old
and still perform for us today.
We cannot look upon them
without giving thanks that You stand beside
us in our time of trouble
and praising the glory of Your Holy Name, O Lord.



Then, to my complete surprise, Ernest opened a little attaché case which he had brought with him to Canonmills. From it he took a rusty sardine tin, a small bottle of oil, a piece of string and a box of matches. He lit ‘the lamp’, held it in his hands, and in his lovely tenor voice sang for us there and then the Chanukkah hymn. Then he said, “That ancient hymn may never reach the Top Ten on the Hit Parade, but it may well have been heard by Jesus himself, sung in the Temple in Jerusalem.”

None of us who were there will ever forget that very special moment, or the remarkable Ernest Levy who could, so eloquently, transform a story of degradation and unspeakable horror into a triumph of humanity, faith, courage and survival.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Ernest Levy; the Sardine Tin Lamp.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ira Glass on Building a Great Story

Ira Glass, the host of This American Life explains the art of constructing a great story.

Momentum
He looks at the building blocks of a compelling story, the way that narrating a sequence of events has momentum, suspense and is like being on a train moving toward a destination of discovery.

Questions
Glass tells how posing questions is like dangling tasty bait where the implication is that the storyteller will answer the questions that have been so tantalizingly raised.

Reflection
The anecdote and the questions are insufficient unless there is a moment of reflection—‘Why the hell are we listening if there’s no point to the story? Who cares about a story that has no point?’

The way the storyteller switches between anecdote and reflection is the art of a good storyteller.

Watch Ira Glass Talk about Building a Good Story



Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Ira Glass

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Jürgen Moltmann on the Busyness of ‘Homo Accelerandus’

Thanks to my friend Simon Holt for this quote by Jürgen Moltmann on the busyness of humanity, the contemporary ‘distress of time’ and the advent of ‘homo accelerandus’.

The ‘he’ in this statement should stand for ‘he’ and ‘sh
e’:

“He has a great many encounters, but does not really experience anything, since although he wants to see everything, he internalizes nothing and reflects upon nothing. He has a great many contacts but no relationships, since he is unable to linger because he is always ‘in a hurry’. He devours ‘fast food’, preferably while standing, because he is no longer able to enjoy anything; after all, a person needs time for enjoyment, and time is precisely what he does not have.”

Link
Simon Holt, Finding Life in Ministry, Simply Simon, 14 October 2009. This is taken from Moltmann’s introductory chapter in Moltmann, Wolterstorff and Charry, A Passion for God’s Reign: Theology, Christian Learning and the Christian Self. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1998, page 39.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: “s/he is unable to linger because s/he is always ‘in a hurry’.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mark Twain on ‘How to Tell a Story’

It is always good advice to listen to experienced storytellers if you honing up your skills in telling a story.

Thanks to Metafilter and About.Com for providing the link to this advice by master-storyteller, Mark Twain.

The Humorous Story an American Development: Its Difference from Comic and Witty Stories.

I do not claim that I can tell a story as it ought to be told. I only claim to know how a story ought to be told, for I have been almost daily in the company of the most expert story-tellers for many years.

There are several kinds of stories, but only one difficult kind--the humorous. I will talk mainly about that one. The humorous story is American, the comic story is English, the witty story is French. The humorous story depends for its effect upon the manner of the telling; the comic story and the witty story upon the matter.

The humorous story may be spun out to great length, and may wander around as much as it pleases, and arrive nowhere in particular; but the comic and witty stories must be brief and end with a point. The humorous story bubbles gently along, the others burst.

The humorous story is strictly a work of art--high and delicate art-- and only an artist can tell it; but no art is necessary in telling the comic and the witty story; anybody can do it. The art of telling a humorous story--understand, I mean by word of mouth, not print--was created in America, and has remained at home.

The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it; but the teller of the comic story tells you beforehand that it is one of the funniest things he has ever heard, then tells it with eager delight, and is the first person to laugh when he gets through. And sometimes, if he has had good success, he is so glad and happy that he will repeat the "nub" of it and glance around from face to face, collecting applause, and then repeat it again. It is a pathetic thing to see.

Very often, of course, the rambling and disjointed humorous story finishes with a nub, point, snapper, or whatever you like to call it. Then the listener must be alert, for in many cases the teller will divert attention from that nub by dropping it in a carefully casual and indifferent way, with the pretence that he does not know it is a nub.

Artemus Ward used that trick a good deal; then when the belated audience presently caught the joke he would look up with innocent surprise, as if wondering what they had found to laugh at. Dan Setchell used it before him, Nye and Riley and others use it to-day.

But the teller of the comic story does not slur the nub; he shouts it at you--every time. And when he prints it, in England, France, Germany, and Italy, he italicizes it, puts some whooping exclamation-points after it, and sometimes explains it in a parenthesis. All of which is very depressing, and makes one want to renounce joking and lead a better life.

Let me set down an instance of the comic method, using an anecdote which has been popular all over the world for twelve or fifteen hundred years. The teller tells it in this way:

THE WOUNDED SOLDIER
In the course of a certain battle a soldier whose leg had been shot off appealed to another soldier who was hurrying by to carry him to the rear, informing him at the same time of the loss which he had sustained; whereupon the generous son of Mars, shouldering the unfortunate, proceeded to carry out his desire. The bullets and cannon-balls were flying in all directions, and presently one of the latter took the wounded man's head off--without, however, his deliverer being aware of it. In no-long time he was hailed by an officer, who said:
"Where are you going with that carcass?"
"To the rear, sir--he's lost his leg!"
"His leg, forsooth?" responded the astonished officer; "you mean his head, you booby."

Whereupon the soldier dispossessed himself of his burden, and stood looking down upon it in great perplexity. At length he said:
"It is true, sir, just as you have said." Then after a pause he added, "But he TOLD me IT WAS HIS LEG! ! ! ! !"

Here the narrator bursts into explosion after explosion of thunderous horse-laughter, repeating that nub from time to time through his gaspings and shriekings and suffocatings.

It takes only a minute and a half to tell that in its comic-story form; and isn't worth the telling, after all. Put into the humorous-story form it takes ten minutes, and is about the funniest thing I have ever listened to--as James Whitcomb Riley tells it.

He tells it in the character of a dull-witted old farmer who has just heard it for the first time, thinks it is unspeakably funny, and is trying to repeat it to a neighbor. But he can't remember it; so he gets all mixed up and wanders helplessly round and round, putting in tedious details that don't belong in the tale and only retard it; taking them out conscientiously and putting in others that are just as useless; making minor mistakes now and then and stopping to correct them and explain how he came to make them; remembering things which he forgot to put in their proper place and going back to put them in there; stopping his narrative a good while in order to try to recall the name of the soldier that was hurt, and finally remembering that the soldier's name was not mentioned, and remarking placidly that the name is of no real importance, anyway--better, of course, if one knew it, but not essential, after all-- and so on, and so on, and so on.

The teller is innocent and happy and pleased with himself, and has to stop every little while to hold himself in and keep from laughing outright; and does hold in, but his body quakes in a jelly-like way with interior chuckles; and at the end of the ten minutes the audience have laughed until they are exhausted, and the tears are running down their faces.

The simplicity and innocence and sincerity and unconsciousness of the old farmer are perfectly simulated, and the result is a performance which is thoroughly charming and delicious. This is art and fine and beautiful, and only a master can compass it; but a machine could tell the other story.

To string incongruities and absurdities together in a wandering and sometimes purposeless way, and seem innocently unaware that they are absurdities, is the basis of the American art, if my position is correct. Another feature is the slurring of the point. A third is the dropping of a studied remark apparently without knowing it, as if one were thinking aloud. The fourth and last is the pause.

Artemus Ward dealt in numbers three and four a good deal. He would begin to tell with great animation something which he seemed to think was wonderful; then lose confidence, and after an apparently absent-minded pause add an incongruous remark in a soliloquizing way; and that was the remark intended to explode the mine--and it did.

For instance, he would say eagerly, excitedly, "I once knew a man in New Zealand who hadn't a tooth in his head"--here his animation would die out; a silent, reflective pause would follow, then he would say dreamily, and as if to himself, "and yet that man could beat a drum better than any man I ever saw."

The pause is an exceedingly important feature in any kind of story, and a frequently recurring feature, too. It is a dainty thing, and delicate, and also uncertain and treacherous; for it must be exactly the right length--no more and no less--or it fails of its purpose and makes trouble. If the pause is too short the impressive point is passed, and [and if too long] the audience have had time to divine that a surprise is intended--and then you can't surprise them, of course.

On the platform I used to tell a negro ghost story that had a pause in front of the snapper on the end, and that pause was the most important thing in the whole story. If I got it the right length precisely, I could spring the finishing ejaculation with effect enough to make some impressible girl deliver a startled little yelp and jump out of her seat --and that was what I was after. This story was called "The Golden Arm," and was told in this fashion. You can practise with it yourself--and mind you look out for the pause and get it right.

THE GOLDEN ARM
Once 'pon a time dey wuz a monsus mean man, en he live 'way out in de prairie all 'lone by hisself, 'cep'n he had a wife. En bimeby she died, en he tuck en toted her way out dah in de prairie en buried her. Well, she had a golden arm--all solid gold, fum de shoulder down. He wuz pow'ful mean--pow'ful; en dat night he couldn't sleep, Gaze he want dat golden arm so bad.

When it come midnight he couldn't stan' it no mo'; so he git up, he did, en tuck his lantern en shoved out thoo de storm en dug her up en got de golden arm; en he bent his head down 'gin de win', en plowed en plowed en plowed thoo de snow. Den all on a sudden he stop (make a considerable pause here, and look startled, and take a listening attitude) en say: "My LAN', what's dat!"

En he listen--en listen--en de win' say (set your teeth together and imitate the wailing and wheezing singsong of the wind), "Bzzz-z-zzz"--- en den, way back yonder whah de grave is, he hear a voice! he hear a voice all mix' up in de win' can't hardly tell 'em 'part--" Bzzz-zzz-- W-h-o--g-o-t--m-y--g-o-l-d-e-n arm? --zzz--zzz-- W-h-o g-o-t m-y g-o-l- d-e-n arm!" (You must begin to shiver violently now.)

En he begin to shiver en shake, en say, "Oh, my! OH, my lan'! "en de win' blow de lantern out, en de snow en sleet blow in his face en mos' choke him, en he start a-plowin' knee-deep towards home mos' dead, he so sk'yerd--en pooty soon he hear de voice agin, en (pause) it 'us comin' after him! "Bzzz--zzz--zzz--W-h-o--g-o-t m-y--g-o-l-d-e-n--arm?"

When he git to de pasture he hear it agin closter now, en a-comin'!-- a-comin' back dah in de dark en de storm--(repeat the wind and the voice). When he git to de house he rush up-stairs en jump in de bed en kiver up, head and years, en lay dah shiverin' en shakin'--en den way out dah he hear it agin!--en a-comin'! En bimeby he hear (pause--awed, listening attitude)--pat--pat--pat--hit's acomin' up-stairs! Den he hear de latch, en he know it's in de room!

Den pooty soon he know it's a-stannin' by de bed! (Pause.) Den--he know it's a-bendin' down over him--en he cain't skasely git his breath! Den-- den--he seem to feel someth' n c-o-l-d, right down 'most agin his head! (Pause.)

Den de voice say, right at his year--"W-h-o g-o-t--m-y--g-o-l-d-e-n arm?" (You must wail it out very plaintively and accusingly; then you stare steadily and impressively into the face of the farthest-gone auditor--a girl, preferably--and let that awe-inspiring pause begin to build itself in the deep hush. When it has reached exactly the right length, jump suddenly at that girl and yell, "You've got it!")

If you've got the pause right, she'll fetch a dear little yelp and spring right out of her shoes. But you must get the pause right; and you will find it the most troublesome and aggravating and uncertain thing you ever undertook.

On Related Sites
Ski the Snow Slopes at a Dubai Shopping Mall, Experiencing the Emirates, 12 October 2009.

BMW Oracle Objection to RAK More About Light Winds than Iranian Dangers, America’s Cup in the UAE, 9 October 2009.

Fly to and From Fujairah by Seawings Seaplane, Fujairah in Focus, 11 October 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Mark Twain.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Hugh MacLeod on the Key Element in the Best Stories

I am a great fan of Hugh MacLeod.

On his web site, Gaping Void, he describes himself in these terms:

* I'm a cartoonist.
* I sell limited-edition prints.
* I wrote a book.
* I'm CEO of Stormhoek USA, which markets South African wine in the States.
* I also draw private commissions.

Some people find the language Hugh uses to be a little coarse but if you have a high tolerance level you will enjoying scanning his site and ordering one of his prints.

Something Different
About this cartoon (pictured) Hugh makes this statement:

"This print is different than the ones I’ve done to date. It has a sort of Abstract-Expressionist feel to it, as I felt that was more in keeping with the sentiment. It’s a beautiful thought, one of my favorites. 'A story without Love is not worth telling.'"

Like Saint Paul wrote to The Corinthians, “Without Love, I am nothing.”

The Best Stories
Hugh adds: "The best stories are about things we care about, told to the people we care about. This is true whether we’re talking fiction, fact, people, ideas or yes, the story about the business you’re trying to get off the ground."

Link
Hugh MacLeod, love matters. People matter. Everything else is secondary. amen to that, Gaping Void, 30 September 2009.

Other Stories and Related Sites
Said of Obama: ‘He’s Not a Muslim. He’s a Good Man’, Experiencing the Emirates, 7 October 2009.

See Alinghi Settling Into Base at Ras al Khaimah UAE, America’s Cup in the UAE, 7 October 2009.

See Why This Fujairah Resident Has a Smile on His Face, Fujairah in Focus, 7 October 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Ricky Gervais Speaks of Being ‘Born Again’ to the Joy of Work

Ricky Gervais, the comedian and the Director of The Office and The Invention of Lying, tells in an interview…about his ‘born again’ experience when he was converted to the joy of work.

About The Office he says, “I enjoyed every moment of it. I enjoyed the result and I enjoyed the pride. I also realised in retrospect that I didn't enjoy all those things because of how good I thought it had turned out. I enjoyed it because of how hard it was.”

The Office, Gervais explains, was the first thing he had ever really worked at. A clever working-class kid from Reading, up to the age of 40 he had always relied on a quick brain and a ready wit to see him through. Life was a breeze, a laugh, a joke. “I suppose I was always creative. I did start 20 novels, and then went, ‘Ah, too hard,’ and went to the bar.”

With The Office, which he devised with his co-writer Stephen Merchant, he didn't go to the bar. They spent years writing it, refining it, honing it, controlling it – their refusal to delegate any detail in its production is legendary.

That, for Gervais, is what makes The Office a watershed. Not its worldwide success, which opened every door and made him impossibly rich….What was really important was the joy of work – not just dashing something off but getting every detail of David Brent and Wernham Hogg ("Where life is stationery") right, a fully realised world.

Gervais said at the outset of the interview, “I think you should know something about me first. I never tried hard at anything. I was born smart on a very working-class estate. A couple of people I knew went to university apart from me, but all the way through I was the smartest kid in the school. That's luck, but I was proud of it. And I was also proud of doing well without trying.”

“As you get older, and it took me a long time to realise it, that's a disgusting attitude, revolting. It's ignorant and it's a tragic waste, and I realised that the work itself is the reward. The struggle itself is the reward. Everything else – fame, money, being best mates with Jonathan Ross – is secondary.”

Link to entire article
Stephen Moss, Ricky Gervais: ‘Before The Office I Never Tried Hard at Anything’, Guardian, 28 September 2009.

Other Stories and Related Sites
Your Business is My Business and My Business is Your Business in the UAE, Experiencing the Emirates, 6 October 2009.

This Will Be One of the Highest Swimming Pools in Fujairah UAE, Fujairah in Focus, 6 October 2009.

Luxury Pen to Commemorate Gandhi’s Birthday is Not Write, Stories for Speakers and Writers, 4 October 2009.

See More Photos and Video of Alinghi in UAE Waters, America’s Cup in the UAE, 6 October 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Ricky Gervais.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Luxury Pen to Commemorate Gandhi’s Birthday is Not Write

Montblanc, the Swiss luxury pen maker has issued a $23,000 pen to commemorate the birth of Mahatma Gandhi (October 2, 1869).

The limited-edition pen, priced at Rs1.1m ($23,000, €15,800, £14,400), has an 18-carat solid gold, rhodium-plated nib, engraved with Gandhi’s image, and ‘a saffron-coloured mandarin garnet’ on the clip.

Dilip R. Doshi, chairman of Entrack, Montblanc’s distributor in India, said “We are creating a thing of simplicity and beauty that will last for centuries.”

How inappropriate can you get? The pen may have been his most powerful tool but an expensive and exclusive writing instrument is not in keeping with the Indian leader who lived a life of poverty and simplicity in the cause of ordinary people.

What next? Giant soft drink cups issued by McDonalds adorned with Gandhi’s portrait? Commemorative Gandhi guns that come with a round of bullets engraved with his initials?

It is astonishing how we celebrate the birth and death of great people in ways that fly in the face of the values they embodied.

Link
Gandhi Used to Sell 11-Lakh Pen, NDTV, 30 September 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: The pen with a close up of the 18 carat nib to commemorate a man who lived each day on rice and carrots.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Dying to Work or is Work Killing You?

Another suicide this week of a France Telecom worker, adding to a spate of suicides at the partially state-run firm, prompted Rupert Wright to remember and review his favourite French business book.

‘Bonjour Paresse’ is by Corinne Maier an underling at Electricite de France.

Her book (‘Hello Laziness’) suddenly became a bestseller in 2004 when an idiot manager at the company threatened to sack her for writing such a scurrilous guide to office life. This led to a front-page story in Le Monde and thousands of extra sales.

10 Commandments for Work
The author has a very cynical view of the corporate world, which includes a list of 10 commandments. Here is a sample of her gems:

1. You are a modern day slave. There is no scope for personal fulfilment. You work for your pay cheque at the end of the month, full stop.

2. It's pointless to try to change the system. Opposing it simply makes it stronger.

3. What you do is pointless. You can be replaced from one day to the next by any cretin sitting next to you. So work as little as possible and spend time [not too much, if you can help it] cultivating your personal network so that you’re untouchable when the next restructuring comes around.

4. You’re not judged on merit, but on whether you look and sound the part. Speak lots of leaden jargon: people will suspect you have an inside track.

5. Never accept a position of responsibility for any reason. You’ll only have to work harder for what amounts to peanuts.

6. Make a beeline for the most useless positions – research, strategy and business development – where it is impossible to assess your “contribution to the wealth of the firm”. Avoid “on the ground” operational roles like the plague.

7. Once you've found one of these plum jobs, never move. It is only the most exposed who get fired.

8. Learn to identify kindred spirits who, like you, believe the system is absurd through discreet signs (quirks in clothing, peculiar jokes, warm smiles).

9. Be nice to people on short-term contracts. They are the only people who do any real work.

10. Tell yourself that the absurd ideology underpinning this corporate bullshit cannot last for ever. It will go the same way as the dialectical materialism of the communist system. The problem is knowing when...

Link to Full Article
Rupert Wright, Make a Beeline for the Most Useless Positions, The National, 1 October 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: The book cover and the author.

The Question that Has Fascinated Interviewer Michael Parkinson

Sir Michael Parkinson, the king of the TV chat show, has interviewed John Lennon, Katherine Hepburn, Nelson Mandela and more than 3,000 people but a single question has driven every one of his interviews.

The show, he said when he was interviewed, was about the indefinable difference between these ‘superstars’ in sport and entertainment and us—the viewers.

“It is the question he says that has driven him on through the 3000-odd interviews he reckons he has done, both on behalf of the folks at home and to satisfy himself. ‘Why? Why you and not me? That is the question that is fascinating.’”

“He does have some answers to that question. ‘Two things I discerned…is that in the main, the people who have it, knew from a very early age what they wanted to be so they didn't spend a lot of their life pondering 'shall I do this, shall I do that?'. They knew from the first show that they wanted to tap-dance, or whatever it was. But the second thing - and this was without exception the rule - was that the very best worked hardest with what they had. They have gifts, of course they do, but they build on them.’”

Link
Stephanie Bunbury, Taking a Shine to Folk, The Age, 26 September 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Parky.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

John Lennon on the Skill of Creativity

John Lennon, the English rock musician and member of 'The Beatles' was asked in an interview whether his song Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds was inspired by drugs.

In his reply he revealed some secrets into the source and skill of his creativity.

On the Dick Cavet Show Lennon remarked how the song’s initials spelt ‘LSD’ but the inspiration for the lyrics had nothing to do with the taking or advocacy of drugs:

“This is the truth. My son came home with a drawing and he showed me this strange looking woman flying around and I said, ‘What is that?’ And he said, ‘Lucy in the sky with diamonds’ and I thought ‘That’s beautiful.’

Lennon said he immediately wrote a song about the painting and Lucy, the Weybridge nursery friend of Julian Lennon who has recently died.

The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes
Lucy may have been the one with the enchanting ‘kaleidoscope eyes’ yet there is something about Lennon’s eyes and his way of looking at ordinary scenes that tells us how creativity is stimulated.

Sometimes, as with his son’s painting, we might get a flash of inspiration that suggests a lyric, a tune, a project or a plan that we had never contemplated before.

Reflective Eyes
In the same interview John Lennon gives other examples that suggest he was practiced at reflecting on things and seeing something more.

Lennon expanded:

“Another song, ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!’, most of the lyrics I got came from an old poster for an old-fashioned circus in the 1800s.”

He said a similar thing happened with the writing of the song, ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’:

“It was the front of a gun magazine that said, ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun.’ They’re advertising guns and I thought it was so crazy so I made a song out of it.”

Seeing Something More
John Lennon may have been born with the disposition for creative brilliance but the stories behind these songs, indicate a skill which we can all cultivate:

“Reflecting on the ordinary things that happen everyday, seeking to see something more and using the insights to spark our creativity.”

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: John Lennon and the drawing by Julian Lennon of Lucy that inspired the song.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

When Shit Happens Turn It Into Gold

Shit Happens!
I’ve never thought much about the expression, ‘Shit Happens’ until last week when I visited an Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka.

The saying, ‘Shit Happens’ has seemed unrefined and coarse when I’ve seen it on a bumper sticker or T-shirt. We want to dress up the unattractive and sweeten the unpalatable—to call a stench an ‘obnoxious effluvium’ or label the brown stuff ‘sewerage’ or ‘excrement’.

‘Shit Happens’ could be the motto at the Sri Lankan elephant sanctuary at Pinnewala. There were about 65 elephants at this farm and we had to watch very carefully where we walked.

At feeding time the pachyderms consumed truck loads of leaves and as the activity started at their rear ends one person quoted a statistic from his travel guide saying that elephants eject raw material from their ‘back door’ on the average sixteen times a day!

Yes, ‘Shit Happens!’ Rotten things are thrown at us in life with remarkable regularity. Foul things confront us in surprising ways. Unwelcome happenings are inevitable and there’s nothing to be gained by calling them anything but ‘shit’.

After feeding time the keepers marshaled their animals for the march of the elephants, across the main Colombo-Kandy highway and down a street where the shops on either side keep a shovel handy to clean up the crap after the elephants plop their way to the river.

Poop or Paper
As we watched the elephants drink and bathe we noticed a shop window with the sign, ‘Poo Paper’. This business sold writing paper, photograph albums and diaries created out of elephant refuse. Some enterprising people had seen value in what others had shoveled away.

A nearby paper workshop had a diagram on the wall that charted the progress from the consumption of fiber, to the pulping in the stomach, right to the delivery of fresh dollops of dung which are ready made for the manufacture of paper.

The treasured turds are dried in the sun and boiled to make reams of high-quality stationery with an artistically-textured finish.

If you want to select a different texture or colour you simply change the elephant’s diet, adding ingredients such as tea, paddy husks or onion peel.

Supplying Paper and Truth
Poo Paper isn’t a novelty stationery item and it isn’t unique to Sri Lanka. It is providing an important source of income as the dung transformers supply paper to customers such as the Colombo Hilton, Sri Lankan Airlines and the Bank of Ceylon. Even more than providing money, the paper is communicating important messages about animal conservation and how life’s unwanted circumstances might be transformed.

Mind Shift
It takes an innovative mind to look at dung and see gold. It requires a creative attitude to move from exasperation when you’re sweeping elephant shit to the excitement of viewing this animal as a mobile paper factory.

When bad things are dropped on us, the genius is to reflect long and hard on these very incidents we want to shovel away in order that we might see how they can be transformed into material that we treasure.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: “The treasured turds are dried in the sun and boiled to make reams of high-quality stationery with an artistically-textured finish.”

Monday, September 28, 2009

Imagine Yourself Making a Greater Difference in the World



This video urges us to think about making our lives count, improving the lot of others and shaping our world for good.

Link
Nitin Nohria & Amanda Pepper, Harvard Business School’s Leadership Initiative and XPLANE, YouTube, 24 June 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Contact me on email at geoffpound[@]gmail.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Taking Them On at Their Own Game

An elderly woman wrote this letter to her bank. The bank manager thought it amusing enough to have it published in The Times of London.

Dear Sir,

I am writing to thank you for bouncing my cheque with which I endeavoured to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three 'nanoseconds' must have elapsed between his presenting the cheque and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honour it. I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my Pension, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only eight years. You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account £30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank.

My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways. I noticed that whereas I personally attend to your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become.

From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person. My mortgage and loan payments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank by cheque, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate. Be aware that it is an offence under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope.

Please find attached an Application Contact Status which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative. Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Solicitor, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.

In due course, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modelled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Let me level the playing field even further. Whenever you need to call me, press buttons as follows:

1-To make an appointment to see me.

2-To query a missing payment.

3-To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.

4-To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.

5-To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.

6-To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.

7-To leave a message on my computer (a password to access my computer is required. A password will be communicated to you at a later date to the Authorized Contact.)

8-To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through 8.

9-To make a general complaint or inquiry, the contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service. While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.

Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement.

May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous, New Year.
Sincerely,

Your Humble Client

Link
In finding a link to The Times I have been unsuccessful but an American version that claims to have been posted in the New York Times is found at this link. The banks are the same the world over!

Who knows? This story might turn out to have the validity and the popularity of this story: Australia’s Best School Answering Machine Message, Stories for Speakers and Writers.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

If You Want to Bring Change Don’t Put the Knife in or Touch any Sore Points

A Catholic Priest, Protestant Pastor and Jewish Rabbi were all chaplains at the same university in the USA.

They would meet 2-3 times a week over coffee to tell each other how they were getting on converting the heathen students.

One day one of them said, “It is all very fine converting these pagans, but that is easy. I bet you couldn't convert a grizzly bear.”

So they made an agreement that in the next 2 weeks they would each find a grizzly and try to convert it.

They met two weeks later - at the hospital.

“Well,” said the Catholic priest who was the only one still standing - but with two broken arms and covered in deep lacerations, “I found my grizzly and I began to bless him in the name of the blessed virgin. But it attacked me and I was only just lucky enough to get out my bottle of holy water which I sprinkled on his forehead and he became as meek and mild as a lamb. He is going through catechism classes now and the bishop is coming to confirm him in a couple of weeks.”

“Well,” said the Protestant Pastor who was also covered in lacerations but was sitting in a wheel chair with two broken legs, “I found my bear and I began to preach the gospel to him in the name of Jesus but he attacked me. So I grabbed him and we rolled down the hill wrestling together until we fell into the river. Then I managed to grab his head and baptize him in the name of Jesus and he became as meek and mild as a lamb. He is now doing discipleship classes and is thinking about going into the ministry.”

Then they looked at the Jewish Rabbi. He was lying almost dead on a stretcher.

“How did you get on?” they said.

“Well,” he said, “I found my bear alright. But I think that maybe circumcision wasn't the best place to start.”

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: “I found my grizzly and I began to bless him in the name of the blessed virgin.”

Mother Teresa Explains What She Did

I don't do big things.

I do small things with big love.

Mother Teresa

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Mother Teresa.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

If You’ve Never Failed You’ve Never Lived

Awe Full Images from Space Thanks to NASA

Check out the newly released photos from the refurbished Hubble Telescope.

Which is your favorite space shot?

So important to get our daily fill of awe.

Image
The one pictured seems to be the people’s choice at the moment.

It is entitled, ‘Butterfly.’

NASA offers this description:

“What resemble dainty butterfly wings are actually roiling cauldrons of gas heated to more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The gas is tearing across space at more than 600,000 miles an hour -- fast enough to travel from Earth to the moon in 24 minutes!”

Link
Amazing New Images from Hubble Telescope, Huffington Post, 9 September 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hear Michael Jordan Cite the Hardships that Made Him Reach Higher

Induction
At Springfield Mass. on Friday (11 September 2009) Michael Jordan was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.

The ceremony took place at Springfield's Symphony Hall, because Jordan was too big a draw card for the Hall of Fame.

The move to the other building allowed for a crowd of about 2,600, more than double what the Hall can accommodate.

Logs on the Fire
Interestingly Jordan had special thanks for the knock backs and the people responsible for creating obstacles. Some saw this as unresolved hurts or unfinished business but it is instructive to see how these difficulties provided the catalyst to spur the champ on to greater heights.

Jordan in his acceptance speech was emotional but then he entertained the crowd with memories of these challenges that inspired him to get to basketball's birthplace:

The coach who cut him from the varsity as a North Carolina schoolboy by saying:
“I wanted to make sure you understood: You made a mistake, dude.”

There was Isaiah Thomas, who allegedly orchestrated a ‘freeze out’ of Jordan in his first All-Star game.

Jordan said, “I wanted to prove to you, Magic (Johnson), Larry (Bird), George (Gervin), everybody that I deserved (to be there) just as much as anybody else, and I hope over the period of my career I've done that without a doubt.”

He spoke of Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy – Jordan called him Pat Riley's ‘little guy’ – who accused Jordan of ‘conning’ players by acting friendly toward them, then attacking them in games.

“I just so happen to be a friendly guy. I get along with everybody, but at the same time, when the light comes on, I'm as competitive as anybody you know.”

Then there was the media who said Jordan, though a great player, would never win like Bird or Johnson.

Jordan said: “I had to listen to all that, and that put so much wood on that fire that it kept me each and every day trying to get better as a basketball player.”

Lastly, Utah's Bryon Russell. Jordan recalled meeting Russell while he was retired and playing minor league baseball in 1994 – and with Sloan looking on in horror – told of how Russell insisted he could have covered him if Jordan was still playing. Russell later got two cracks at Jordan in the NBA finals, and he was the defender when Jordan hit the clinching shot to win the 1998 title.

Jordan said, “From this day forward, if I ever see him in shorts, I'm coming at him.”

Still Not Done
Jordan might still not be done for he shared this concluding word:
“One day you might look up and see me playing a game at 50. Don't laugh. Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.”

See and Listen to Michael Jordan
Part 1



Part 2



Part 3



Links
Brian Mahoney, Michael Jordan Inducted Into Basketball Hall of Fame, Huffington Post, 11 September 2009.

President Obama Inspires Children by Telling about Michael Jordan’s Failures, Stories for Speakers and Writers, 8 September 2009.

On Related Sites
Fujairah for Blue Skies, Beaches and Diving, Fujairah in Focus, 11 September 2009.

The Swiss Advantage in the America’s Cup, America’s Cup in the UAE, 12 September 2009.

Ted Kennedy’s Inspiring Last Letter to President Obama, Stories for Speakers and Writers, 11 September 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Ask him for details about advertizing and links on his sites.

Image: Michael Jordan speaking at his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ted Kennedy’s Inspiring Last Letter to President Obama

Whatever side of the political fence you sit on, the following statement illustrates the value of letter writing, the importance of taking time to express your appreciation, the significance of those that inspire us and the way that working towards a great dream can capture the imagination of others long after we are gone.

This is the text of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's letter to President Obama, as referenced by the president during this week’s speech:

Dear Mr. President,

I wanted to write a few final words to you to express my gratitude for your repeated personal kindnesses to me - and one last time, to salute your leadership in giving our country back its future and its truth.

On a personal level, you and Michelle reached out to Vicki, to our family and me in so many different ways. You helped to make these difficult months a happy time in my life.

You also made it a time of hope for me and for our country.

When I thought of all the years, all the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the President who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society. For me, this cause stretched across decades; it has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. It was the cause of my life. And in the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me-and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination.

There will be struggles - there always have been - and they are already underway again. But as we moved forward in these months, I learned that you will not yield to calls to retreat - that you will stay with the cause until it is won. I saw your conviction that the time is now and witnessed your unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is a decisive issue for our future prosperity. But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.

And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family's health will never again depend on the amount of a family's wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will - yes, we will - fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.

In closing, let me say again how proud I was to be part of your campaign- and proud as well to play a part in the early months of a new era of high purpose and achievement. I entered public life with a young President who inspired a generation and the world. It gives me great hope that as I leave, another young President inspires another generation and once more on America's behalf inspires the entire world.

So, I wrote this to thank you one last time as a friend- and to stand with you one last time for change and the America we can become.

At the Denver Convention where you were nominated, I said the dream lives on.

And I finished this letter with unshakable faith that the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.

With deep respect and abiding affection,


Ted

Stories By or About Ted Kennedy
Edward Kennedy Turns Bumbling into a Blessing, SFS, 5 September 2009.

Ted Kennedy: We Carry On, SFS, 1 September 2009.

Ted Kennedy Legislating with Principle, Mutuality and the Luck of the Irish, SFS, 1 September 2009.

Ted Kennedy Remembered Most for His Giving Heart, SFS, 1 September 2009.

Text of Obama’s Eulogy at Kennedy’s Funeral Mass, Associated Press, 30 August 2009.

Stories By or About Barack Obama
President Obama Inspires Children by Telling about Michael Jordan’s Failures, SFS, 8 September 2009.

President Obama Inspires Children by Telling about JK Rowling’s Rejection, SFS, 8 September 2009.

Story for the US President about Gatekeepers, SFS.

Barack Obama and the Empathetic Person, SFS.

Ben Okri on Obama the Speechmaker, SFS.

Obama Tells Story of Anne Nixon Cooper, SFS.

Obama’s Speech on Election Night, SFS.

Obama’s Tribute to His Grandmother, SFS.

Obama on the Cost and Struggle of Change, SFS.

Obama’s Tribute to His Grandmother (from book), SFS.

Obama Expresses Debt to Mother and His Humble Beginnings, SFS.

Al Gore on Obama’s Youthfulness, SFS.

Why We in the UAE and Arab World Like President Obama, ETE.

Obama Books
Reviewing The Audacity of Hope, RBM.

Reviewing Dreams of My Father, RBM.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Ask him for details about advertizing and links on his sites.

Image: Barack Obama and Edward Kennedy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Brian Clark on the Dynamics of Authority

Copyblogger, Brian Clark, tells this story about authority and then applies it to people seeking to build an online business:

A television reporter dresses up in a security guard’s uniform and sets up in front of a Las Vegas bank. He sticks a sign on the ATM embellished with a big gold badge and the following message:

“OUT OF ORDER — GIVE DEPOSITS TO GUARD ON DUTY.”

Bank customers start showing up. Each time, the fake guard smiles and asks if the customer wants to make a deposit or withdrawal.

This whole scenario is ridiculous, right? No bank would conduct business this way.

And yet, customer after customer handed over cash, checks, Social Security numbers, credit cards, account numbers, PIN codes… you name it. Out of 10 people, only one hesitated, but even he complied seconds later.

When the reporter revealed the deception and asked the flabbergasted victims why they handed him money and private information, they all gave pretty much the same answer:

“Because of the uniform. Because of the sign.”

In other words, they complied because he was perceived as authoritative and therefore, trustworthy.

Why?

Neuroscience reveals the somewhat frightening answer. Brain scans show that the decision-making parts of our brains often shut down when we encounter authoritative advice or direction.

That’s part of what makes authority so powerful. And why authority carries great responsibility.

When you’re looking to influence people and build a powerful business online, authority is the way to go. People respect other people who have authority, expertise, and impressive credentials just like they respect people in lab coats and police uniforms.

And they respect authority even more when you demonstrate it rather than simply claim it. More on that in a minute.

Simply put, authority makes you more important in the eyes of others… someone who should be listened to and treated better. And it’s not just people who operate this way.

Source
Popular Copyblogger, Brian Clark, has created a new web site entitled Authority Rules for all his posts on this theme and they are also available on a PDF document from the same site.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: “Because of the uniform.”

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Elizabeth Gilbert and Tom Waits on Capturing the Creative Urges

In a TED Talk on Nurturing Creativity, author Elizabeth Gilbert tells how to capture and contain creativity in constructive ways:

“And what is that thing? And how are we to relate to it in a way that will not make us lose our minds, but, in fact, might actually keep us sane?”

“And for me, the best contemporary example that I have of how to do that is the musician Tom Waits, who I got to interview several years ago on a magazine assignment. And we were talking about this, and you know, Tom, for most of his life he was pretty much the embodiment of the tormented contemporary modern artist, trying to control and manage and dominate these sorts of uncontrollable creative impulses that were totally internalized.”

“But then he got older, he got calmer, and one day he was driving down the freeway in Los Angeles he told me, and this is when it all changed for him. And he's speeding along, and all of a sudden he hears this little fragment of melody, that comes into his head as inspiration often comes, elusive and tantalizing, and he wants it, you know, it's gorgeous, and he longs for it, but he has no way to get it. He doesn't have a piece of paper, he doesn't have a pencil, he doesn't have a tape recorder.”

“So he starts to feel all of that old anxiety start to rise in him like, ‘I’m going to lose this thing, and then I'm going to be haunted by this song forever. I’m not good enough, and I can't do it.’ And instead of panicking, he just stopped. He just stopped that whole mental process and he did something completely novel. He just looked up at the sky, and he said, ‘Excuse me, can you not see that I'm driving? Do I look like I can write down a song right now? If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment when I can take care of you. Otherwise, go bother somebody else today. Go bother Leonard Cohen.’”

“And his whole work process changed after that. Not the work, the work was still oftentimes as dark as ever. But the process, and the heavy anxiety around it was released when he took the genie, the genius out of him where it was causing nothing but trouble, and released it kind of back where it came from, and realized that this didn't have to be this internalized, tormented thing. It could be this peculiar, wondrous, bizarre collaboration kind of conversation between Tom and the strange, external thing that was not quite Tom.”

“So when I heard that story it started to shift a little bit the way that I worked too, and it already saved me once. This idea, it saved me when I was in the middle of writing ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ and I fell into one of those, sort of pits of despair that we all fall into when we're working on something and it's not coming and you start to think this is going to be a disaster, this is going to be the worst book ever written. Not just bad, but the worst book ever written. And I started to think I should just dump this project. But then I remembered Tom talking to the open air and I tried it. So I just lifted my face up from the manuscript and I directed my comments to an empty corner of the room. And I said aloud, ‘Listen you, thing, you and I both know that if this book isn't brilliant that is not entirely my fault, right? Because you can see that I am putting everything I have into this, I don't have anymore than this. So if you want it to be better, then you've got to show up and do your part of the deal. OK. But if you don't do that, you know what, the hell with it. I'm going to keep writing anyway because that's my job. And I would please like the record to reflect today that I showed up for my part of the job.”

Link
Read the full transcript and watch the video:
Elizabeth Gilbert, Nurturing Creativity, TED Talks, February 2009.

Related
Elizabeth Gilbert, Creativity Comes Like a Thunderous Train or When Slaving like a Mule, SFS.
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love, Reviewing Books and Movies.
Elizabeth Gilbert: Arriving in a New Culture, SFS.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Elizabeth Gilbert, novelist; Tom Waits, musician.

Creativity Comes like a Thunderous Train or when Slaving Like a Mule

In a TED Talk on Nurturing Creativity, author Elizabeth Gilbert tells how creativity comes to people in different ways:

Chased by Creativity
“I had this encounter recently where I met the extraordinary American poet Ruth stone, who’s now in her 90s, but she’s been a poet her entire life and she told me that when she was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out working the fields, and she said she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. And it would come barreling down at her over the landscape. And she felt it coming, because it would shake the earth under her feet. She knew that she had only one thing to do at that point, and that was to, in her words, ‘run like hell’. And she would run like hell to the house and she would be getting chased by this poem, and the whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page.”

“And other times she wouldn't be fast enough, so she'd be running and running and running, and she wouldn't get to the house and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it and she said it would continue on across the landscape, looking, as she put it ‘for another poet.’”

“And then there were these times -- this is the piece I never forgot --she said that there were moments where she would almost miss it, right? So, she's running to the house and she's looking for the paper and the poem passes through her, and she grabs a pencil just as it's going through her, and then she said, it was like she would reach out with her other hand and she would catch it. She would catch the poem by its tail, and she would pull it backwards into her body as she was transcribing on the page. And in these instances, the poem would come up on the page perfect and intact but backwards, from the last word to the first.”

“So when I heard that, it was like -- that's uncanny, that's exactly what my creative process is like.”

Slaving Like a Mule
“That's not all what my creative process is -- I'm not the pipeline! I'm a mule, and the way that I have to work is that I have to get up at the same time every day, and sweat and labor and barrel through it really awkwardly. But even I, in my mulishness, even I have brushed up against that thing, at times. And I would imagine that a lot of you have too. You know, even I have had work or ideas come through me from a source that I honestly cannot identify. And what is that thing? And how are we to relate to it in a way that will not make us lose our minds, but, in fact, might actually keep us sane?”

Link
Read the full transcript and watch the video:
Elizabeth Gilbert, Nurturing Creativity, TED Talks, February 2009.

Related
Elizabeth Gilbert and Tom Waits on Capturing the Creative Urges, SFS.
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love, Reviewing Books and Movies.
Elizabeth Gilbert: Arriving in a New Culture, SFS.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Elizabeth Gilbert tells how creativity comes to people in different ways.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

President Obama Inspires Children by Telling about Michael Jordan’s Failures

President Barack Obama, in his speech (8 September 2009) to Wakefield High School students in Arlington, Virginia, makes this statement about success and illustrates it with this story:

“Being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.”

“That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures…. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, ‘I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.’”

“These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.”

“No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work.”

Link to Full Text
Barack Obama, Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama Back to School Event, White House Media Resources, 8 September.

More Stories by or About Barack Obama
President Obama Inspires Children by Telling about JK Rowling’s Rejection, SFS, 8 September 2009.
Story for the US President about Gatekeepers, SFS.
Barack Obama and the Empathetic Person, SFS.
Ben Okri on Obama the Speechmaker, SFS.
Obama Tells Story of Anne Nixon Cooper, SFS.
Obama’s Speech on Election Night, SFS.
Obama’s Tribute to His Grandmother, SFS.
Obama on the Cost and Struggle of Change, SFS.
Obama’s Tribute to His Grandmother (from book), SFS.
Obama Expresses Debt to Mother and His Humble Beginnings, SFS.
Al Gore on Obama’s Youthfulness, SFS.
Why We in the UAE and Arab World Like President Obama, ETE.

Obama Books
Reviewing The Audacity of Hope, RBM.
Reviewing Dreams of My Father, RBM.

On Related Sites
Photo Blogging Abu Dhabi UAE, Experiencing the Emirates, 7 September 2009.

Coming Second or Losing in the America’s Cup, America’s Cup in the UAE, 4 September 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

Ask him for details about advertizing and links on his sites.

Image: ‘I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.’

President Obama Inspires Children by Telling about J K Rowling’s Rejection

President Barack Obama, in his speech (8 September 2009) to Wakefield High School students in Arlington, Virginia, makes this statement about success and illustrates it with this story:

“Being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.”

“That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published.”

Link to Full Text
Barack Obama, Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama Back to School Event, White House Media Resources, 8 September.

More Stories about or by Barack Obama
Story for the US President about Gatekeepers, SFS.
Barack Obama and the Empathetic Person, SFS.
Ben Okri on Obama the Speechmaker, SFS.
Obama Tells Story of Anne Nixon Cooper, SFS.
Obama’s Speech on Election Night, SFS.
Obama’s Tribute to His Grandmother, SFS.
Obama on the Cost and Struggle of Change, SFS.
Obama’s Tribute to His Grandmother (from book), SFS.
Obama Expresses Debt to Mother and His Humble Beginnings, SFS.
Al Gore on Obama’s Youthfulness, SFS.
Why We in the UAE and Arab World Like President Obama, ETE.

Obama Books
Reviewing The Audacity of Hope, RBM.
Reviewing Dreams of My Father, RBM.

More on JK Rowling
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

On Related Sites
Photo Blogging Abu Dhabi UAE, Experiencing the Emirates, 7 September 2009.

Coming Second or Losing in the America’s Cup, America’s Cup in the UAE, 4 September 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.

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Image: “JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published.”