Category : Personal Development

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Not with a bang, but a whimper

imageThe disappearance of Flight MH370 reminds us all of the transience of ‘the good old days’. September 11 and Pearl Harbour had the same effect and of course the ill-fated Titanic, which was as insulting to our vanity as was the proposition from Copernicus, that the Earth was no longer the Centre of the Universe.

None of us like being put back in our places but these events along with countless other disasters, whether man-made or natural, remind us each time that we are subject to forces beyond our own control. Oedipus Rex was not alone in his vexations.

So what can we do? How can we strengthen ourselves to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, as Hamlet would have wanted? We can insure our possessions against misadventure but what about our inner security? No proposals there in the letterbox.

We feed our bodies but we also need to feed our soul with strengthening nutrition to withstand these simple twists of Fate. Keeping an even keel can be a big ask in some of the tricky situations we may come across, but keeping your cool can be an enormous asset and can mean the difference between life or death.

Sure, we don’t pretend to be James Bond or Clint Eastwood, however we can be our own ‘Cool Hand Luke’. We can develop an inner resilience that enables us to bend with the wind but not be snapped by it. The strength of water, which can wear away rock, is in its ability to flow and adapt which the rock can’t. Immutable Fate becomes a putty in the mind of one who has become detached from the drama of self entanglement that besets those who identify with the external phenomenon.image

Meditation is the most direct method of anchoring the soul to that which does not change. The benefits of this practise have been widely promoted and cannot be over-emphasised. It is your best friend and benefactor and costs absolutely nothing.

For those who don’t know where to start, Qi Jong is a good beginning.

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Sophisticated Scuttlebutt

imageIf a wise man learns by his own mistakes and a genius learns by the mistakes of others, then it is a fool that thinks he has all the answers. There are always gaps in our knowledge bank that can be exploited by the use of rhetoric or skilfull persuasion.

The Orators of Ancient Greece elevated this art through public speaking and debate. Something did indeed happen on the way to the Forum. The value of this skill became highly prized and the rich and powerful paid big money to learn the techniques of verbal arm-twisting. A new breed of teacher was born known as the Sophists who became the first lawyers by virtue of their convincing ability to argue the case.

Sales pitches rely on the same basic elements to drive home the emotional urgency of committing to the call to action. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a basic road map of our ‘hot buttons’ and not much has changed over the centuries. Whether it be a roof over our heads, food for the table or wage claims, most of our concerns and anxieties revolve around survival and security issues. The establishment of the Border Protection Force in Australia is a perfect example of xenophobic paranoia that is fear-mongering masquerading as paternalistic governance.

That old chestnut, the law ‘n order ticket is an overplayed standby of last resort when political parties run out of steam in the New Ideas Department. Budget deficits can also be subject to the ‘colour bar’ when it suits the political agenda and the nifty side-stepping whereby governments give the plebs the choice of being hung, drawn or quartered is delivered as a democratic privilege.

A true Statesman is imageone who stands head and shoulders above the crowd in their long term vision and who has the ability to deliver that message through skilfull rhetoric and political persuasion. The fact that they are few and far between is testimony to the rarity of that combination.

The end oftentimes doesn’t justify the means; it is then that the question is more important than the answer which will still be blowin’ in the wind.

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Gonna, Goner, Gone!

imageWe all do it, don’t we? Most of us, at least, with the exception of those who have learned the lesson. The Road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions and for all those procrastinators, hoarders and ‘excuse-artists’ out there, I’ve got some great news for you. Firstly, however, we need to understand what it is that prevents us from fulfilling our best of intentions. We all mean it when we say ‘Yep, I’d like to do that’ and we all know the silent remorse we feel when we see somebody else who does what we always wanted to do ourselves.

So what is this bogey that gets in our way and brings out the loser in us all?

It’s the same fiend that is responsible for our doubts, transgressions and failures.

He sits at our table, eats our food and shares our company.

He is a parasite that feeds on our dreams, hopes and aspirations and leaves us feeling drained.

His name is Indecision.

Procrastination is Indecision.

Hoarding is Indecision.

Excuses are Indecision by not deciding on the truth and failing to act.

Why do you think Executives and CEO’s get paid megabucks?

Our Political Masters are Decision Makers.

Even in the Armed Forces a bad decision is tolerated as better than no decision.

The merits or deficits of a decision will evoke its own outcome. It will be at least that, an outcome upon which the next decision can be made. The alternative is to put it on the back burner.image

There are many wise sayings and pithy comments about the inability to decide.

Choose the ones that ring your bell.

Do it now.

Ultimately it’s up to you.

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Upwardly Mobile or Just on Walkabout?

imageAs we see the younger generations moving away from broad-based social media platforms to more app-specific channels, not only has the generational divide become apparent but also the ability of marketers to target these niches has increased.

The mountain, to the climber, is clearer from the plain and as the various interest groups devolve to their fundamental essences, the characterising features of each group become more obvious.

This is a natural process, no different to tribal formations based on common need factors. The implications for social communication relate more and more to interest-specific messages rather than editorial style monologues that emanate from a central edifice.

The colour of your socks and the brand of clothing that you wear are becoming totemic in their relevance to a sense of identity for many, largely due to the intuitive online marketing methods that give the consumer a sense of ‘care factor’ that may be missing elsewhere in their lives.

The notion of a commercial interest being your best friend is somewhat perturbing, however the ultimate judge of satisfaction is the consumer. If you’re satisfied with an inferior product but superior marketing, then why go past McDonalds?

The downside of this trend is that the greater marketing muscle of these giants destroy competition without the same imperatives. So they ultimately disappear, in the same way that many kids these days don’t know where milk comes from and probably don’t drink it anyway, preferring a Slurpee, Shake or energy drink thanks to the psychological arm twisting methods of the big fellas.

The manipulation of processed food labelling is an example of the insidious cynicism displayed by the profit masters. The downsizing of product and increased use of artificial additives are but minor aspects of a greater intrusion into the consumer landscape.

Henry Ford understood this when he introduced the first mass-produced motor car as being available in ‘any colour you like, as long as it’s black’.

imageI only hope that the same behaviour displayed by the younger set in ‘moving away from the masses’ also applies to their consumer choices and that where it matters, they will vote with their feet.

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Social Butterfly or Social Flutterby?

imageWith the rise of social media in its many different formats, the former notion of a ‘pen pal’ has taken on new dimensions. Each platform has a different flavour and style that suits different needs, albeit all in the ambit of personal communications.

Differences aside, the social protocols are the same across the spectrum and basic common sense and sensitivity are all important. The fork in the road comes down to whether you are pushing your own barrow (which we all do to varying degrees) or whether you’re expanding your horizons by being open to communicating with new people and opening up to their interests.

Meaningful relationships will be a mixture of both of the above. Contributing relevant advice or assistance depends on the awareness of the needs of the other party, hence permission based marketing is the way to achieve this.

Some of the most successful online personalities have started out with purely non-commercial intent and through their passion and exuberance for their ‘hobby’ have garnered large followings of like-minded souls who don’t feel threatened by a sales pitch. Sales are generated when there is a recognition of real value in the commodity or service so it is important to ‘over deliver’ in order to gain traction and recognition.

Social butterflies are those who at least give as much as they receive, whereas the ‘flutterby’ is more interested in what they can take away for themselves. It becomes evident quite quickly which type you are on social media and also in the wider arena of everyday life.

Flutterbies are here one day and gone the next as there is no social cohesion to establish a fabric of interaction that is the fulcrum of meaningful communication. The one way ticket to oblivion is the only certainty for those who do not extend a care factor to their intended audience. Social media platforms themselves are getting better at monitoring this aspect, with penalties being applied for transgressions and infringements of personal liberties and considerations.

imageBetter to stay on the safe side of sorry and exercise caution when attempting to influence readers with marketing ploys that don’t use a straight bat. Even the use of pop ups is questionable as it is unsolicited and very annoying to some of us, myself included.

Do unto others, etc….

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Going without, going within

imageTrusting that you all had a good Easter. For many of us it is a time for holidays, family, friends and for some a time of religious reflection. I enjoy Good Friday because any religion aside, it is a day when everything is closed and you have to make do with what you have.

One day of the year, apart from Christmas Day, where we have the opportunity to take stock of what is important to us. It’s actually fun, like when you were a kid going camping and had to improvise and be inventive.

Everyone breathes a big sigh of relief the next day, of course, when the shops reopen. We have become accustomed to our comfort zones and don’t like being taken out of them for too long.

imageOf course the Crucifixion is a symbol of Sufferance, the ultimate charity and Christ’s legacy is undisputed. By appreciating what we have and being prepared to extend charity on that behalf is the real message. Pay it forward.

May your Light shine for others to see and benefit.

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Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker

imageIt was only yesterday that we saw the world through the eyes of our profession. Some of us still do, our identity defined by our contribution to the wheels of commerce, our aspirations limited by our financial returns from the machine of travail.

Education systems are now moving away from the ‘just in case’ scenario (where we learn the basics of different subjects) to the ‘just in time’ perspective (where we learn how to find the required knowledge if we need it).

The rise of the Internet has obviated the need to store all this information in our heads, with virtually all the knowledge available to man being accessible with the click of a mouse.

So how does this affect the way we see ourselves in a world that is changing rapidly, one in which students today are trained for jobs that have yet to be invented? Surnames that reflect our vocations such as Smith, Turner and Cooper no longer have their etymology rationale and seem to hark back to a time of lineage and class divisions that no longer apply.

The beauty of this ‘open source’ knowledge base is that the previous constraints no longer apply. A humble villager in an underdeveloped country now has the same access as a well-to-do silvertail. Higher learning is no longer the domain of the rich and innovation is becoming the order of the day as communication networks open up the final frontiers of ignorance and repressive thinking.

We are now global citizens with the means to redefine our existence by capitalising upon the information superhighway, whether by means of social media, webinars, courses and forums. Ultimately people are the most important asset for productivity and our self-esteem can now be boosted in so many ways. imageBeing able to contribute in a valued and meaningful way is the new métier of success and identity and the more fluid and adaptable we become in this new kaleidoscope of knowledge, the more the world will change with us and become the place of opportunity for man.

 

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Serendipity

imageIn the post of two weeks ago ‘Days like This’ we looked at alignment and being in the ‘zone’. A further unintended result can quite often be windfall events that are a bonus.

Good fortune can be nurtured by good intention, not as a linear causality but rather as an indirect expression of bounty or cornucopian vision.

If we are generous in our approach to our ‘dharma’ or ‘universal responsibility’, so too is the ripple effect that is created which in turn can be amplified through ‘resonance’ or ‘striking the right chord’.

There is an alchemical process at work here which cannot be directly manipulated but can be harnessed within a synergy of thought and action similar to an ‘offering to the gods’. As a byline an old joke comes to mind about the Christian priest and the Jewish rabbi. When asked about their methods of collecting donations for the Church, the priest replied that a plate is passed around the congregation and money is given to the Church whereas the rabbi said that they do the same with one small difference. After the plate has been passed around, the money is tossed into the air, God keeps what he wants and the remainder is kept by the rabbi!

Cynical attempts at exploitation of these energy principles will only backfire on the proponent, possibly with dire consequences resulting from the amplification effect. Fallen angels indeed.

So our intention here is key. Both purity and impurity will reap their own appropriate harvest. As we see the world, so too the world sees us. Yin and Yang, God and the Devil, saint and sinner are both sides of the same coin. Which of these you put your money on will pay out in kind.image

The jackpot lies somewhere in the middle.  Harmony and Balance will be the metrics that determine where it falls but it will be in there.

Many names have been given to it: Heaven, Nirvana, Paradise, etc.

May we all find it eventually.

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Saint or Sinner?

s1What comes to mind when the word ‘saint’ is mentioned? Holy? Beyond human fault? There are many interpretations. All of them, however, draw a line between mere mortals and those who have displayed the godly characteristics that differentiate them from ordinary people. We sometimes call somebody a saint when they go beyond the normal call of duty in serving their fellow man. ‘The patience of a saint’ is often used to describe the exercise of tolerance when most of us would have succumbed to the opposite.

The word ‘saint’ comes from the Latin ‘sanctus’ which means ‘holy’. To sanctify means to ‘make holy’ or ‘cleanse of sin’. Of course this sits perfectly with the concept of Original Sin, without which most of our Western religions would have little foundation. This highly unfortunate assumption has been one of the most powerful influencers in our view of the world. Karl Marx once stated that ‘religion is the opium of the people’ and in that regard it is highly self-serving to perpetuate the notion of Original Sin. It is not in a drug pusher’s interest to wean the addict from his addiction.

We tend to institutionalise our thinking when it comes to matters that seem to be out of our control and we surrender our power to a higher authority in the hope that they will ‘fix it’. In the same way that banks make multi-billion dollars profit by charging interest, if our mindset is mortgaged to an external power then the ensuing bondage is the interest. Little wonder then at the power of the Church.

Fundamentalism is as alive in the West as it is in the East. Even the ‘right to bear arms’ enshrined in the American Constitution is an endorsement of a basic xenophobia or mistrust of others that only serves to further entrench the division that is the basis of dualistic thinking. The Ku Klux Clan and Gun Lobby have no shortage of subscription and right-wing politics reinforce divisions in culture.

s2The internet is now serving as a great leveller in dispelling monopolies of thought as individuals gain access to freedom of communication and the former moguls of influence are quickly losing their stranglehold on the masses. There are many more Davids than Goliaths and our ultimate redemption lies not in a patented cartel of power but in the hands of the humble servant that answers our deepest prayers for love and understanding and returns the power to where it belongs, which is in your heart and mine.

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Days like This

chainFor those of us that haven’t read the book ‘Zen and the Art of motorcycle maintenance’ by Robert Pirsig, the point that the author was trying to get across was that quality, per se, is indefinable in that it is always a relative term. ‘Quality’ is determined by comparing one object or commodity with another one and the superior features and benefits displayed by one over the other will deem it be of a higher ‘quality’.

The ‘Zen’ part of the book looks at how we hoodwink ourselves into belief systems that don’t serve us well and begs the question of how we need to adopt a more wholistic viewpoint to be able to turn things around so that they work for us rather than against us.

The Zen approach is fascinating because it gets to the root of our own personal paradoxical paradigms (alliteration please) by questioning our sense of ownership of them. It is basically a process of letting go as opposed to implementation. It’s taking one step back, a deep breath, a moment to reflect, a refusal to identify with the momentum of that which we consider to be inevitable.

It is only when the various parts of our being are aligned in harmony that we can function at our best. Zen identifies with the target rather than the archer. This is visualization at its best. Avid watchers of ‘Kung Fu’ will remember the Master saying ‘Grasshopper, if you have no fear there is no place for the arrow to enter’.

Whether we refer to it as the ‘heart, body and soul’ or whatever, the alignment of our inner systems will determine our effectiveness in achieving our goals. There are many ways to assist this process, some of which are featured on this website.

frogFor must of us, we have the occasional ‘Days like This’ as in the Van Morrison song but they are few and far between. Personal Development programs can assist you to have these sorts of days a lot more often. This is the real benefit that keeps me coming back to this topic.

There are so many useful tools out there and so many ways to access them that we really should take advantage of whatever is useful for us to improve our lives. That the ‘world waits for no man’ points the way for us to become more proactive in shaping our own destiny.