15 March  2016      

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 Four Powerful Phrases
Mark DeMoss

 Spirit to Spirit:  Lack of Race
David Thomas

Strategies for Leading a Creative Life
tom walsh

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Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of people, but from doing something worthwhile.

Wilfred T. Grenfell

When you say "Wait a moment," you are bound by your own karma; when you say "Yes I will," you are free.

Shunryu Suzuki

Intimacy is the capacity to be rather weird with someone--and finding that that's okay with them.

Alain de Botton

In my soul, I am still that small child
who did not care about anything else
but the beautiful colors of a rainbow.

Papiha Ghosh

  
Four Powerful Phrases
Mark DeMoss

I teach my children that words have powers.  "Stupid" and "shut up," for instance, close doors.  "Please" and "thank you" open them.  As my children grow up and move into the world, I'll also teach them a few phrases that, in my experience, can unbolt shut doors, leave open doors ajar, and cut passages where none existed.  For example:

"In my opinion. . ."

My field is public relations and my role is to dispense counsel, but the advice I give often comes down to opinion, and I tell my clients that.  I wish we heard those three words more often from our leaders, but I hope you always hear them from me.

Does saying "in my opinion" show weakness?  On the contrary, in my opinion, those three words signal strength--for what I'm about to say, I take full responsibility.  That shows confidence, and listeners take their cues from the signals we send.  In fact, the more certain I am about something, the more likely I am to preface, or conclude my words with "in my opinion."

"What Do You Think?"

In the greatest business textbook ever written, one proverb says, "Where there is no counsel, the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety."  The best counsel givers, in other words, are counsel seekers.

As president of a small, twenty-employee PR firm, my judgment and decisions are colored by the counsel of relevant people--employees, friends, industry peers, my wife--and sometimes counselors less obviously relevant.  Only arrogance would overlook advice because of a person's job title.

In years of work with more than a hundred organizations, I have often seen leaders make major decrees or decisions without the benefit of much more than a counsel of one.  Certainly a leader is free to override advice--ultimately he or she is left with final judgment--but to form that judgment without seeking information, news, and opinions, and without listening to the dissenting side. . . well, the wisdom of one is not as wise as it could be.

"Let Me Ask You a Question"

"The stupidity of people comes from having an answer to everything.  The wisdom of the novel comes from having a question for everything."  In an interview on his writing, award-winning Czechoslovakian author Milan Kundera parted the curtain on his technique and offered a tip to everyone who wants the full story:  he asks questions.  The writer continued, "It seems to me that all over the world people nowadays prefer to judge rather than to understand, to answer rather than to ask, so that the voice of the novel can hardly be heard over the noisy foolishness of human certainties."

Someone else put it this way:  knowledge has right answers; wisdom has right questions.  So let me ask you something:  do you employ the power of a question?

Humanly speaking, it is almost impossible to disregard a good question.  Just the phrase "Let me ask you. . ." arrests attention.  Try it in your next meeting.  Used wisely (only you know if you're using it to manipulate), a question is your passage to new information, more time to think, and the regard of the people you're talking to.  In our culture, questions show interest; they flatter.  As a business leader, I also observe that good questions sharpen my employees' own thinking, and we're all better for it.

"I Don't Know"

When Billy Graham turned seventy, a Newsweek interviewer asked him why, given his mighty public influence, he never ran for political office.  Mr. Graham told the reporter he wasn't smart enough.  Away from headlines, a brilliant attorney acknowledged that he avoided a certain branch of law because he had failed at it miserably.  Unfortunately, though, these men are the exceptions.

Great men and women, accomplished artists, gifted leaders, I observe, who are confident about their strengths are equally comfortable admitting their weaknesses.  In fact, show me an expert willing to say, "I don't know," and I'll show you a constituency who trusts what he or she does know.

I am not advocating a string of shrugs, needless ignorance, or lack of preparation.  But I do suggest that, along with the phrases "In my opinion," "What do you think?" and "Let me ask you a question," is the confidence-inspiring habit of refusing to blow smoke.  I would even suggest that people who say "I don't know" usually know more than it might appear, while those who don't ever acknowledge it almost certainly know less.

One of the best things leaders can do for their children, spouses, employees, clients, and anyone else is to make it acceptable not to know.  In an atmosphere of honest questioning, people are more likely to collaborate--to shoot out suggestions, think out loud, and discover information no single know-it-all could have developed alone.

Small things often make the biggest impact--thinking like a customer, admitting to not knowing everything, asking for help.  Just take a look around then join the minority who understand and practice these simple principles.

   

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Spirit to Spirit
David Thomas

Lack of Race

I think that one of the most important elements of recognizing ourselves and others as spiritual beings is simply the amazing equality that such a perspective reflects.  As human beings, we're constantly judging other people and reacting to them based more on our judgments than on their actions or words or selves.  We judge based on a whole bunch of things that we've convinced ourselves are important--skin color, gender, accents, performance, national origin, or any of a slew of other criteria.

But guess what?  When we see each other as spirits, there's no such thing as judgment, for we know for sure that we're on equal footing with the others in our lives.  That doesn't mean that everyone's an angel or that other people don't do seriously stupid or rude things, but it does mean that we can recognize that what we're watching is that spirit's humanness getting in the way.  One of our goals here is to overcome all the limitations that our humanness puts on us, and the people who are still doing rude or mean or dumb things haven't yet learned to respect themselves and to use effectively the brains and the bodies that they've been given.

Try this sometime:  When you meet someone, ask yourself two random questions about that person.  For example, you might wonder what that person's greatest fear is and what that person's favorite flavor of ice cream.  As soon as you do that, you're inside that person, aren't you?  You're thinking about the depths of that person's spirit, even if on a fairly superficial level.  Suddenly that person has fears and desires and hopes and dreams and he or she is not simply a black woman or an oriental man.  Suddenly, nationality and skin color mean nothing, for they have absolutely nothing to do with a great fear or a favorite flavor.

And once you do this, you should be able to relate to this person on an even deeper level.  And you should be able to see other people around you in a similar way--as fellow spirits making their ways through a human experience.  And you'll be able to look completely past the surface in order to wonder at the depth.  You'll start to feel the connection that we are all born with, but that we lose so soon after people start teaching us how to be human.  Have you ever noticed how little children look at each other as if they know each other already?  That's something that we lose quickly as we learn to judge others based strictly upon what we see.  But what about how we feel when we meet others?  That's very real, isn't it?  Unfortunately, most of us tend not to trust our feelings nearly as much as we trust our vision.

Wouldn't it be great to be a part of a world in which people didn't see each other as races or nationalities or religions or ethnicities?  But it's important to keep an important fact in mind:  If we're going to live in such a world, then people have to change how they see others, and we need to look with new eyes and feel more strongly as individuals.  And the change has to start on an individual level--and it has to start with you and with me.  I've already started making the effort (though I'll be the first to admit that I'm not completely there yet!), so I invite you to join me in this effort, on this journey.  If you and I can start doing this and encouraging more people to do so also, then eventually more and more people will be able to look at their fellow spirits without judging them a bit on their skin color or any other completely superficial criterion.  So let's start!
   

   

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Kindness is one of the gentle expressions of love.  We grow in grace when
we become aware that one of God's gifts to us can be that we may share
our loving kindness with all of creation.  People all over the world are seeking
peace of mind, solutions to everyday problems, better relationships with other
people, and a more meaningful way of life.  Surely we are aware of the room
for improvement within ourselves and in our life.  A healthy serving of loving
kindness--both giving and receiving--could make a difference!

John Marks Templeton
Worldwide Laws of Life

   

 

Strategies for Leading a Creative Life

Creativity--what a loaded word!  There are those who copy someone else's work and consider themselves to be creative; there are those who do truly unique and amazing work who don't consider themselves to be creative at all.  I may look at a painting and see an extremely creative work, while you may look at the same one and see a derivative piece of work with little creativity at all.  And we're probably both right.

From my experience, this difficulty in defining the concept of creativity is one of the biggest hindrances to living a creative life.  Someone who doesn't consider him- or herself to be creative often stops trying to be creative.  After all, why try to be creative if they always just come up short?  This is a nice little craft that I've created, but so many other really creative people are so much more creative than I am, so there's really no reason for me to keep doing what I'm doing.  I'm better off not trying to be creative, because then I don't get frustrated at my own efforts.

Creativity, though, isn't a comparative activity.  It's not a race, and it's not a competition--though we've definitely warped the concept by awarding prizes for creative works that are somehow "better" than others.  If we're able to keep in mind that our creativity is an important part of who we are and that how other people view our creative efforts truly doesn't matter in the long run, perhaps we can allow ourselves to pursue more creative pursuits without judging the outcomes so much--the novels you read aren't first drafts, after all, and the paintings you see come from years of practice, not just picking up a brush and some paint and having a go at a canvas.

   

Creativity belongs to the artist in each of us.  To create
means to relate.  The root meaning of the word art is to
fit together
and we all do this every day. . . . Each
time we fit things together we are creating--whether
it is to make a loaf of bread, a child, a day.

Corita Kent and Jan Steward

   
If you want to let creativity be an important part of your life, the first thing you need to be able to do is to start without a preconceived notion of what a finished product is going to be like.  Having a general idea is always good, but often our idea of what something should look like or sound like gets in the way of letting ourselves be truly creative.  If I start a painting and I "know" what it's supposed to look like, there's a good chance that after two hours, when the painting doesn't look anything like I want it to, I'll give up.  If I'm trying to paint a landscape and things don't look just right, I can get frustrated and annoyed and give up the project--and believe me, I've done this.  If I'm being creative, though, I know that what I'm creating does not have to look just like what I'm painting, and I can let go and try to enjoy the process, letting the painting or drawing take on a life of its own and become a new "creation," not simply a copy of what I've seen.

Another important element of creativity is time--creativity doesn't just happen spontaneously (though it can).  We have to set aside time for our creative pursuits, allowing ourselves the opportunity not just to get started, but to continue with them.  It doesn't have to be hours on end, obviously--many people give themselves twenty or thirty minutes a day, which comes out to be two or three hours a week, or eight to twelve hours a month.  You'll be surprised how quickly such short periods of time add up, and you'll be pleased at how much you actually accomplish in such a short period over the course of time.

When you give yourself time, make sure that you eliminate distractions as much as you can.  It's not hard to imagine why people with small children in the house rarely write bestsellers or paint a significant number of paintings, unless they're renting a studio elsewhere.  Small children are wonderful blessings, of course, and if we actually listen to them and pay attention to them we can learn a lot about creativity, but they do tend to distract us from whatever task we have at hand.  Likewise, turn off the cell phone.  Don't go online.  Stay focused on your task for the time you've allotted--the world will continue to turn without your contribution for those few minutes.
    

Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. . . most of
the things that are interesting, important, and human are the
results of creativity. . . when we are involved in it, we feel
that we are living more fully than during the rest of life.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

    
Two of the most important things that I've done in order to stay creative have been to redefine my definition of creativity and to respect the creative process.  To me, doing something new and different can be creative, be that rearranging the furniture in the living room, writing a novel, drawing a picture, or making a dinner.  I try to do things in a way I hadn't thought of before, or in a way I hadn't seen before.  This doesn't always work out well, but that's fine--it's just as important to find out what doesn't work while I'm being creative as it is to find out what does work.  And things can always be modified to make them work--or a piece of paper with a bad poem can be tossed in the trash.  This is called respecting the process.  In that process, there will be some "failures"--which to me aren't failures at all if I learn something important from them.

It's also important to decide for yourself just what's creative and what's not.  I have a coloring book, for example, and I enjoy using it.  To me, though, it's not a creative endeavor because all I'm doing is filling in blank spaces with color.  And I understand the argument that says that because I'm choosing the colors, I'm being creative, but I simply don't see it that way.  I do see it as an important form of meditation, and as I said, I love doing it.  I simply don't see it as creative.  If someone else does, that's fine with me, but it doesn't mean that I have to do so.  Nor would I tell another person that it isn't creative for them to do it--their views of creativity and mine are obviously quite different.

Another important thing to do if you want to make creativity a part of your life is to try new things to see how they feel for you.  The chances are that you can't become an accomplished painter in a couple of weeks, but there's nothing saying that you can't buy a few brushes, a couple tubes of paint and a few canvases and give painting a shot.  If you try writing poetry, you won't need anything other than some paper and a pen or pencil.  If you want to be creative in the kitchen, of course, you'll need an assortment of spices and other ingredients; if you want to decorate your house in a creative manner, you will need to spend money--not necessarily tons, but you should budget something for the endeavor.

And have you thought about being creative at work?  Many jobs limit the amount of creativity that we can bring to them by their very nature, but very often we can look for new ways of doing things, new methods of filing stuff, new ways of visualizing the work that we do in order to make it more effective or interesting or even enjoyable.  If you work at a place that sells or produces very specific items, you obviously won't be able to be creative with the items, but perhaps you can create ways of making those items that may even improve their quality.
   

Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks,
breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.

Mary Lou Cook

   
It's also extremely important to support others with their creativity, to experience their creativity as much as you can--even help with it if possible.  We are creative beings, and we're also social beings, so participating together in creative endeavors is very important to us.  We learn from them, they learn from us, and we all grow and develop as people.

I want to be creative as much as I can be.  I want to do things in new ways so that I don't stagnate and start doing everything in the same old ways all the time.  I also want to express myself creatively, to share my ideas with other people in creative and different ways.  And I don't want my creative efforts to be judged, except in ways that may help me to improve them.  If they are truly creative, though, there's really no need for improvement--they're nice just as they are and while the next one may be better, this creative effort has resulted in something important for me.  Live your life creatively--trust yourself to be creative, and push yourself to try more creative things.  We're blessed to have been born with the capacity to create, so let's use that ability as best as we can!

   
More on creativity.

   

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To know how little one knows is to have genuine knowledge. Not to know how little one knows is to be deluded.  Only those who know when they are deluded can free themselves from such delusion.  The intelligent people are not deluded, because they know and accept their ignorance as ignorance, and thereby have genuine knowledge.

Lao-tzu

  
Seven Ways to Cultivate a Mental Attitude
That Will Bring You Peace and Happiness
Dale Carnegie

Rule 1:  Let's fill our minds with thoughts of peace, courage, health, and hope, for "our life is what our thoughts make it."

Rule 2:  Let's never try to get even with our enemies, because if we do we will hurt ourselves far more than we hurt them.  Let's do as General Eisenhower does:  let's never waste a minute thinking about people we don't like.

Rule 3:  A.  Instead of worrying about ingratitude, let's expect it.  Let's remember that Jesus healed ten lepers in one day--and only one thanked him.  Why should we expect more gratitude than Jesus got?
B.  Let's remember that the only way to find happiness is not to expect gratitude--but to give for the joy of giving.
C.  Let's remember that gratitude is a "cultivated" trait; so if we want our children to be grateful, we must train them to be grateful.

Rule 4:  Count your blessings--not your troubles!

Rule 5:  Let's not imitate others.  Let's find ourselves and be ourselves, for "envy is ignorance" and "imitation is suicide."

Rule 6:  When fate hands us a lemon, let's try to make a lemonade.

Rule 7:  Let's forget our own unhappiness--by trying to create a little happiness for others.  "When you are good to others, you are best to yourself."

The practice of loving kindness must find its root deep within us.  The story is told that Mohandas Gandhi once settled in a village and at once began serving the needs of the villagers who lived there.  A friend inquired if Gandhi's objectives in serving the poor were purely humanitarian.  Gandhi replied, "Not at all.  I am here to serve no one else but myself, to find my own self-realization through the service of these village folk."

As Gandhi wisely points out, even as we serve others we are working on ourselves; every act, every word, every gesture of genuine compassion naturally nourishes our own hearts as well.  It is not a question of who is healed first.  When we attend to ourselves with compassion and mercy, more healing is made available for others.  And when we serve others with an open and generous heart, great healing comes to us.


Wayne Muller

   
  

Love is when I am concerned with your relationship with your own
life, rather than with your relationship to mine. . . . There must be a
commitment to each other’s well-being.  Most people who say they
have a commitment don’t; they have an attachment.  Commitment
means, “I am going to stick with you and support your experience
of well-being.”  Attachment means, “I am stuck without you.”

Stewart Emery

    

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