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Archive for June, 2010

I’ve got the cure for the summertime blues. Or, in fact, for whenever you are in a funk. The easiest way to remember this cure is by its acronym: “D.S.F.S.Q.” It stands for “Do Something For Someone Quick!

New research from Harvard University shows that helping others catalyzes a “moral transformation” that makes people more capable when performing tasks that require physical endurance. For real! You can read a bit more about the recent research here: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/04/strength-in-naughty-or-nice/.

Helping others is a powerful remedy for just about any illness – mental, physical or emotional. How does it work? To begin with, man is a social animal, generally gregarious in nature. Social interaction is an important part of most people’s lives and no matter how you cut it, we need one another.

You might recall the elevator scene from the movie Jerry Maguire in which Tom Cruise and co-star Renee Zellweger saw a deaf couple sign the romantic phrase “You complete me.” If you missed that you might have seen Dr. Evil and Mini-Me share the same interchange in the second and third Austin Powers films. Regardless of your movie tastes, it is true that we do have the opportunity, if not the responsibility to complete one another. No single person is complete unto him or herself and complementation is the key to the survival and success of the human race.

The communications technology of the last century transformed the way we relate to one another. Much of what used to occur “kneecap to kneecap” now happens virtually. It is possible to live in near total isolation, much like the astronauts involved in the 520 day simulation of a Mars mission at the Institute for Biomedical Problems in Moscow (see http://www.space.com/news/record-setting-mock-mars-mission-begins-100603.html). But rare is the individual who can live in complete isolation with no requirement for interaction with others. We depend on one another.

What excites me about the new research coming out of Harvard is that there is documented proof of some of the many benefits that come from helping others. Combine that with a simple awareness of the needs of others and you have a recipe for success!

Experiment with this in the days to come. When you find yourself in a tight spot, D.S.F.S.Q. And when you do, you are wise to have no concern for the results. If you give genuinely, it won’t matter to you if the gift is accepted or rejected or even if it is thrown back in your face. You’ve done your part and as far as you’re concerned, that’s all that matters.

Have a great day, my friends, and enjoy the opportunities that come your way to help others. And remember, D.S.F.S.Q!

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A Song of the Future by Sidney Lanier

Sail fast, sail fast,
Ark of my hopes, Ark of my dreams;
Sweep lordly o’er the drowned Past,
Fly glittering through the sun’s strange beams;
Sail fast, sail fast.
Breaths of new buds from off some drying lea
With news about the Future scent the sea:
My brain is beating like the heart of Haste:
I’ll loose me a bird upon this Present waste;
Go, trembling song,
And stay not long; oh, stay not long:
Thou’rt only a gray and sober dove,
But thine eye is faith and thy wing is love.

As Yogi Berra once said, “The future isn’t what it used to be.” It can be challenging to maintain a positive outlook about the future in times of uncertainty, yet doing so is one of the most important qualities of leadership.

When the future is unclear or when it seems hopeless panic is your enemy. No amount of frenzied activity or thought will force the revelation of that which is veiled and wisdom is available only to those whose hearts and minds are at rest. If your brain is beating like the heart of haste, you will likely miss out on something important.

Instead of wasting time and energy fearing the unknown, take comfort in what you do know. Rather than dwelling on that which you do not comprehend, focus on that which you do understand. Squinting into the dimly lit future will be of no avail if you fail to handle the immediate circumstances you face as close to perfect (if not perfectly) as you can.

Be of good cheer, for as challenging and tumultuous as the economy, your relationships, your finances and any other aspect of your life might be at present, the future is bright. Give yourself fully to the necessities of the moment, invest wisely in the now and you will realize a return, though it will rarely come as you had envisioned it.

Let your eye be faith and your wing love and the way of your future will be made clear.

Have a wonderful day!

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What makes life worthwhile? What matters to you? What counts in your life?

In this fascinating TED2010 talk, Chip Conley, CEO, author and founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, makes a persuasive case for the reconsideration of the metrics used to guide our companies and our nation.

At what point do we get off of the “treadmill of aspiration,” as Conley so cleverly put it? For most Americans the idea exists that the treadmill ride ends at retirement. “You’ve gotten as far as you’ll go and now it’s time to sit back and enjoy it,” they say, and rare is the individual who manages to move beyond the confines of that thinking earlier in life.

Why not create the conditions in our companies and in our great nation that are conducive to the generation and maintenance of the intangibles, such as happiness? Sure we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but how often do we really exercise that right?

Life matters. People matter. Goodness counts. I, for one, am concerned to make a difference while I am here and I love to see evidence of others who are not only dreaming of transforming the world, but who are also doing tangible, catalytic work to get the ball rolling.

Thank you Chip Conley!

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William Blake by Thomas Phillips

To The Evening Star by William Blake

Thou fair-haired angel of the evening,
Now, whilst the sun rests on the mountains, light
Thy bright torch of love; thy radiant crown
Put on, and smile upon our evening bed!
Smile on our loves, and while thou drawest the
Blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew
On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes
In timely sleep. Let thy west wing sleep on
The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
And wash the dusk with silver. Soon, full soon,
Dost thou withdraw; then the wolf rages wide,
And the lion glares through the dun forest.
The fleeces of our flocks are covered with
Thy sacred dew; protect with them with thine influence.

I wish you a good and peaceful evening, my friends.

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An eight year old gave me great hope for the future today. In a time where children are teasing, tormenting and bullying their peers via email, text and other social media, one young man is taking the high road and making a difference.

This young fellow was recently mistreated by someone close to him and instead of retaliating, getting upset, feeling victimized or getting even, he made a strategic retreat and recorded this little memo for his older friend:

Isn’t that magnificent? Would that others twice and thrice his age take the same approach with their peers the world would undoubtedly be a better place. His uncommon faith in the goodness of others, even after having been personally wronged, is absolutely inspiring.

When was the last time you forgave another to the depths that this sincere young man was able to in just a few verses? Rather than being diminished by his actions, he was fortified. Moreover, his friend was given the chance to make a choice: either rise up and meet his call or be repelled from the unrelieved tension. Instead of demanding a change, he did what he could to peaceably and lovingly draw it forth.

Take the high road in your living today. Follow the example of this sweet young man so that you too can make a difference in the lives of those around you.

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National Geographic writer Dan Buettner and his team study “Blue Zones,” communities around the world that live longer and better than the average person. They found four geographic areas and studied them extensively to determine the underlying causes of their longevity.

In this TED presentation filmed September 2009 Buettner reveals 9 common diet and lifestyle habits that keep these communities active and strong past the age of 100:

Longevity has little value as an “end,” but it is useful as a means to an end. If part of your purpose is to be a blessing to the world you center it behooves you to take steps to enjoy vitality for as long as possible.

The day before yesterday I had the good pleasure of visiting a wellness clinic in Connecticut. Amongst the many activities that day they were filming the story of a remarkable family who had taken steps over the last year to improve their health.

Incorporating many of the suggestions outlined in Buettner’s presentation as well as specific recommendations to handle their particular needs, the family worked together, in strong agreement might I add, to be proactive relative to their health. Allergies disappeared, aches and pains went away and other patterns of ill health were clarified over time and boy are they excited to share their story!

Health is contagious. Health is inspiring. Informed choices, a radiant outlook and an active lifestyle can have a profound influence on your overall health, no matter what your starting point. As a doctor friend of mine once said, “Just because you got a bad pair of genes doesn’t mean you have to wear them.” I am inclined to agree.

I encourage you to incorporate any or all of these 9 healthy habits into your life! It is simply a matter of using your capacity of free will to form new and lasting habits.

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The French have a saying: “Qui trop embrasse, mal etreint” which means, “he who embraces too much, has a weak grasp.” What does it take to move from being a “Jack of all trades, master of none” to being a master of all trades?

While there is value in have a breadth of skills and knowledge, it is also important to cultivate mastery in at least one area of your life. Everyone I know who has achieved mastery in their life has told me some version of this: you have to believe that mastery is within your grasp. To be sure, mastery – expert skill or knowledge – is available to every man and woman on earth.

The road to mastery is one that is paved with practice and a passion for the increasingly subtle touch. There is an old joke that has become part of the folklore of Carnegie Hall in which Arthur Rubenstein, the famous Russian pianist and composer is approached by a tourist on the streets of New York who asks: “Sir, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?” Rubenstein replies:”Practice, practice, practice.”

Practice makes perfect, assuming, that is, that you discard the notion that nobody’s perfect. Perfect practice allows for a gradual refinement of your skills, understanding and perhaps most importantly, your sensitivity to the delicate rhythms involved in any creative activity. Yo-Yo Ma on cello, Cristiano Ronaldo on the soccer field, Richard Petty on the race track and Roger Federer on the tennis court all built their expertise over time through practice.

Mastery in any field can be described in similar terms. It doesn’t matter if mastery is achieved in sports, in the arts or in some other area of function, mastery is invariably beautiful, elegant, and awe-inspiring. Experts in any field always possess the magical ability to make even the most challenging task look easy. Why is that?

In mastery there is subtlety. Anyone who has mastered an activity has developed the ability to sense corrections that need to be made before they are visible to the inexperienced onlooker. As a beginner in any activity you will likely find yourself making gross and awkward adjustments and you might find yourself flopping around on the horse for a while before you can look graceful.

Over time, however, the adjustments become more and more subtle, less and less emphasized and more and more intuitive. You develop a sixth-sense in mastery that is only available when your other senses are at rest and not over-stimulated.

A perfect example is found in the equestrian arts. A rider in pursuit of mastery will find himself increasingly stable, relaxed and secure in his seat and a well-trained horse will move in accordance with the wishes of his rider requiring less obvious aids to the point of invisibility if consistent practice is made. Training a dog is the same. If your training regimen is appropriate and effective, you will find that less and less force, repetition and energy is required – by the trainer and the dog – to secure the desired result. Isn’t that exciting?

Take stock of the fields of activity that you participate in and consider how you might move from where you are to that no-longer elusive and eminently tenable state of mastery. Practice consistently, practice perfectly and make adjustments in your approach with as little fuss and as little muss as possible and you will be well on your way.

Beating yourself up, getting depressed about the not-so-perfect practice sessions, demanding too far beyond present capabilities and insisting on a certain outcome will retard your progress. Giving yourself (and others!) a break, embracing failure as an opportunity to fortify likely shaky foundational elements, being reasonable in your demands and giving it your all without expectation of results will hasten your progress.

Which will it be?

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