In a world of quotations and sayings, it occured to me recently that many of these old dictums have taken on new meaning in this fast-changing world. Whether because a noun has been co-opted or distorted, or the content of the saying now has a new reference, there are many old sayings that, at the very least, could raise an eyebrow.
Herewith some of my favorites. I’m sure there are many more, so will be happy to hear about them from you!
“A house without books is like a room without windows” (by Heinrich Mann)
“All Greek to Me” MD: not anymore with Google Translate?
“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes” MD: and then some! (by Charles Spurgeon)
“Apple of my eye”
“Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining”
“I always trust my gut reaction; it’s always right.” (by Kiana Tom) MD: Try big data.
We are in changing times (once again) and I must say that the picture reminds me of the grey and rainy may day (ie. help!) we are having in London (au Secours #RadioLondres), on this Monday, May 7, 2012.
As of today, we now have:
Hollande in France, voted in by 51.7%
Samaris of the New Democracy party in Greece with 18.9% vote, introducing a very new form of democracy
Putin of United Russia with 64% of the vote as the returning President in Russia, ushering back in an echo of Russian democracy
…not to mention the weekend’s local/regional elections in the UK, Germany and Italy, where the incumbents were regularly whipped or wiped out of office.
A major year for elections
These elections alone have been rather momentous. And, ahead, there are many more parliamentary and presidential elections to which to look forward including Egypt in end of May, India (in July) and USA (in November)… [You can view the entire list of elections in the world in this Wikipedia entry.]
It was a busy week of voting for me, too. I voted in the mayoral election in London as well as the Presidential election in France (via “procuration”). I will also cast my vote in the US elections.
For what purpose?
But, with all these elections, it leads me to pose two questions:
how much do people expect the world to change thanks to politicians?
how much productivity is negatively impacted in a country during the year of elections?
On the first point, I have long been a proponent of the Ayn Rand determinist school of thought, so I would much rather take matters into my own hands, whenever possible. If you are in business, then I think there is no better state of mind. I am more likely to believe that democratically elected politicians can negatively impact business, rather than positively.
On the second question, if voters spent their time on constructive debate and pundits (and the media) provided more reasoned and well-researched arguments, perhaps an election would be grounds for real debate and progress. But, between media airwaves that are spent on unsightly negative political (and personal) attacks, flaring emotions in bar rooms and pubs and vapid political debates, there seems to be too much wasted breath (and time) during political campaigns.
The political cycle
The problem with democratically elected officials is that, by definition, they must over promise to get elected. Yet, with clockwork predictability, unexpected events occur and plans are derailed. By mid term, the electorate systematically becomes impatient and sanctions their elected leader, making the last half of the term a lame duck. The arc of democracy consists of high expectations and dashed hopes. Would that we all got down to the business of taking responsibility for ourselves rather than waiting for Godot.
The Economist is one of those magazines where, you just hate to throw it out because, every page you turn, you risk finding yet another interesting article. In terminology that should be rolling off marketers’ lips, that would mean “high quality content.” Here is an issue (December 18-31, 2010) where the cover itself caught my eye (since I just happen to be 46 years old), “The Joy of Growing Old — or why life begins at 46.”
I suppose that a good number of you, readers, following this blog might be my peers; thus, I felt inclined to share this cover for you… Here is a link to the article, “The U-Bend of Life,” just in case you felt like reading it! (Apparently, this is not new news. The Daily Telegraph reported the same conclusion in 2008 based on a Lifesworth survey, suggesting that life begins at 46, too!). In any event, the article makes for (yet another) good read.
Economist – The Joy of Growing Old, starts at 46 years old (Dec 2010)
“Will capitalism become ethical or not?” Plenary Session animated by Jean-Pierre Elkabach
Below I will highlight a few points that I took away from the two hour plenary session, brilliantly managed by JP Elkabach, on Ethical Capitalism at the MEDEF Summer University 2009.
As with the other subjects discussed in all the sessions at the Medef UE 2009, the US clearly remains a nevralgic centre for business leaders in France. To be sure, I was not the only American in the audience to be fingered. The newly assigned US Ambassador to France, Charles Rivkin, was on hand to hear a number of rather broad criticisms of the US in the current crisis. Not too surprisingly, a large part of the ‘debate’ was focused on America, the originator of today’s world crisis.
With a few broad strokes, Pierre Bellon, President of Sodexho, ranted (since he feels he has earned the right), “the fault [of the current crisis] lies with bankers…credit agencies…and politicians…” As if that were not enough, he also felt the need to state that “the citizen and the small companies cannot be held responsible.” Mr Bellon called for, among other things, greater transparency, the cleaning up of conflicting interests, and the end of the eternal optimisation of corporate profits… What irked me about his tirade was the feeling that there was little accountability in his words There were no corresponding concessions understood in the propositions and there was no ripost from the stage or floor…
Laurent Fabius, former PM of France, explained that the US will have to rebalance its budget. ‘It is an enormous “black cloud” that looms over the world’ said Fabius about the US budget deficit. Regarding France and the system of ‘privileges‘ (defined as that which is “read in private“), Fabius suggested that the MEDEF should review that which should be allowed to be transparent as he believes that the trend toward total transparency is dangerous. Fabius grandly called for a Social and Ecological Economy, whatever that means.
Christine Lagarde, France’s Minister of Economic Affairs, also did not like too much transparency either. However, in a play on words, if not shadows, she prefers to shed “light”… shone on the shadier, darker areas, including the Swiss banking traditions (2/3 of the world’s transactions occur in the ignorance of, or outside the realm of the world’s governing agencies). However, unfortunately, she did not have the opportunity to elaborate on which transparency she did not want to have…
What struck me about the intervention of the three people I cite above was the recurring issue of transparency. To be transparent or not to be… and about what? This was certainly a topic that came up again and again in the various sessions. In certain regards, on an emotional level, total transparency is an unlikely objective, even dangerous. In any event, is there such a thing as total truth? Unlikely. The issue of total transparency is that one may risk removing all the mystery of life (as one might appreciate in surprises, love and luxury … ). Secondly, there are certainly some things better left unsaid in terms of avoiding unnecessary heartache…e.g. white lies. Whether personal or political, some secrets are better kept that way. But, how and when to know to stop the transparency tap? Aside from state secrets, there is the case of some ‘sensitive’ subjects being put into the wrong hands (notably the media), and these do indeed need to be treated with great care. But, shrouding facts behind the veil of secrecy is a tricky business. And, for the cynical, if everything is transparent, there is no more wiggle room for propaganda?
Nonetheless, notwithstanding the philosophical nature of total disclosure (cf Rousseau’s Confessions), I truly believe that, in the field of business, there is a need for much greater transparency and I would be worried to believe that Mme Lagarde would not agree. Transparency is, in this case, an issue of strategic communication. This does not mean that one need be saying everything about every subject; too much information is one of today’s major curses. Yet, there is much to gain in terms of employee ‘buy-in’ by being transparent about a corporation’s its financials, challenges and ambitions. Such transparency helps galvanize what is sometimes termed as ‘psychic ownership‘ whereby, without needing recourse to stock options, an employee comes to ‘own’ the vision and the problems and, along the way, becomes part of the solutions, too. Even in the case of brands and their relationship with the customer, transparency is more desirable. The myth of “mystique = value added” has worn thin. The brands need to regain the [lost] trust of the customer which is why there is so much being attention paid to authenticity and transparency. Surely, it is not too strong a leap to suggest ethical capitalism should include transparent values and justifiable value? Would be glad to have your feedback on this topic!
I finish with what, for me, was one of the more poignant phrases of the conference. Philippe Lemoine, President of LaSer said, “[t]he French need to have confidence in themselves…” He encouraged the MEDEF business leaders: “You need to listen better…” and you will find your way better.
Don’t we all? Trouble is, as we grow older, the opportunities to belly ache, hoot and laugh out loud seem to diminish. It is said that kids on average will laugh 80 – 100 times in a day. Little children can laugh up to 400 times in a day. From Sixwise, in an article that discusses how to reduce stress (always necessary), there is a section on the benefits of laughing.
“By the time we reach adulthood, we laugh only 5-6 times per day. You only need to watch children to appreciate the relationship between humor and enjoying life. Children will laugh at anything! If you ask them, ‘what’s so funny,’ they may say something like, ‘he looked at me!’ says Barbara Bartlein, R.N., M.S.W., a motivational speaker and consultant.” [BTW I also particularly like tip #15: To drive courteously. Isn’t there enough stress without having obnxious, selfish and dangerous drivers on the road?]
There are apparently many purported health benefits to laughing, including helping to heal cancer & depression. From Nurses Together, laughter apparently also “lowers your blood pressure and heart rate, improves lung capacity, massages internal organs, increases memory and alertness, reduces pain, improves digestion, and lowers the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenalin.” And, here is a recent study (April 17 2009) as reported by Health on the Net (HON), saying that laughter increases good cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart attacks for diabetics. Bascially, laughter would seem to be the panacea for many ailments; maybe we should all be prescribed tickets to see hilarious theatre?
One of the downfalls of smiling and laughter is the creasing of the face (evidently not appreciated if you have had plastic surgery, for example). The wrinkles that mark time on our faces also carry the history of how much we may have spent laughing and smiling as opposed to frowning and smirking. I would be easily led to believe that those who know how to laugh liberally tend to have a more positive outlook on life. On another level, for those whose humour involves self-derision, there is an equally appreciable sense of humility. Different from comedians who have the knack of helping us laugh, I am just more likely to gravitate toward those who are given to laugh, without shame. BTW, did you ever stop to consider if having a sense of humour refers more to the ability to make people laugh or the ability to laugh oneself? In effect, a sense of humour is about both per dictionary.com: “The trait of appreciating (and being able to express) the humorous…” In either case, it is a wonder you never see “own a sense of humour” on the CV.
So, in an effort to increase those smile wrinkles, to bring a smile to your face, and even encourage you to laugh, not just now as you watch, but every hour of ever day, here below is a five point bulletin designed to set your course straight and wiggly.
First, the classic from Mary Poppins, written By the Sherman Brothers (1964).
2/ Ok, Mary Poppins doesn’t make you laugh necessarily, but it sets the stage for a good smile. Now to do some laughing. Here is 1″40 of sheer enjoyment.
A good followup act is here with this little kid that has a funny, deep laugh. Just being around carefree babies is enough to bring smiles to all in proximity (although the parent may at times gain immunity!)
3/ Try this laughter yoga video, hosted by John Cleese. You can find out if and where Laughter Yoga clubs are near you at LaughterYoga.org. We had one dinner party where we began the dinner by all laughing for 10 minutes. Made for a super energy for the rest of the meal.
4/ I invite you to pop over to watch a short video podcast from ABC, broadcasting a report by the BBC, about the contagiousness of laughter. Watching a few babies giggling is bound to break out a smile. Visit here.
5/ And, fifth, I am glad to report that there is an official Global Belly Laughter day which happens to be my son’s birthday: January 24th. May every day be January 24th.
To close out this post on laughter, here is a wonderful Laughing and Smiling Oath:
The Laughing Oath
I do solemnly swear from this day forward To grease my giggling gears each day And to wear a grin on my face for no reason at all! I promise to tap my funny bone often, With children, family, friends, colleagues and clients, And to laugh at least fifteen times per day. I believe that frequent belly laughter Cures terminal tightness, cerebral stiffness, And hardening of the attitudes, And that HA HA often leads to AHA! Therefore, I vow, from this day forth, To brighten the day of everyone I meet, And to laugh long and prosper.
When you need to write two thousand and nine, as in “five thousand years ago, two thousand and nine people participated in the world’s first game of Twister” (they didn’t), you might also write it as “5,000 years ago, 2,009 people participated in the world’s largest game of Twitter…” (no points, just a comma, for spotting the difference).
So, the question I have is why would we also write: “Today is May 9, 2009 and, 5,000 years ago, 2,009 people participated in the world’s largest game of Twitter“?
If we write 2,009 for a number, why do we drop the comma when we write 2009 for the year? When we write 10,000 B.C., moreover, we add the comma too.
My existential question du jour: When we get to the year 10,000 A.D., will we or will we not have integrated the comma? And if we do, at what point will some governing body decide to do that? Just the changes in computer programming to add the comma, much less the implications of Y10K with 5 digits, seem to boggle the mind.
I think this is a question we can safely put on the backburner. Failing that, we can hand over to some under-utilised bureaucrat in some over-run government. Your thoughts?
For this post, I would like to take you on a kind of virtual journey. Specifically, I will share a series of videos that show the world connecting through music, proof that music has a special universality. Take the trip, I think you will enjoy the ride.
In the best of times, much less the worst, Stand By Me is just a fabulous song. There are some songs from which you just don’t tire. This YouTube video is now past 8 million views and going strong — not bad for 5 months old (posted November 2008).
If you like this one, you might like the others from this series, featuring many of the same performers: One World or One Love. NB The Playing for Change website behind this product is changing on Uncle Sam’s tax date 2009.
If you cast your memory back to the days of the mid 1980s and Band Aid, Live Aid and We are the World… how the movement might have been magnified… So, now, if you are still needing a pick me up, remember We Are the World? This particular posting also has 8 million views funnily enough, posted in 2005, although I note that there are plenty of other versions, meaning that there needs to a kind of video consolidator system … between all the different online video!. This video below was created in 1985 by USA for Africa (United Support of Artists for Africa). As a reminder, there was a magnificent cast of 45 artists involved. It is a joy to revisit.
And, to pursue the tour of ‘world music’, I give a flashback to Band Aid founded in 1984 with this “Do They Know it’s Christmas” clip (below is a better version) produced by Bob Geldof and his team. This particular YouTube clip has nearly 6 million views today — it is a substantially better production than the rambling shambles performed on stage in live in 1985. But, it’s fun to remember that this “old fashioned” media managed to reach 2 billion people back then.
That said, my favourite clip of the 1985 Live Aid show comes from U2 with Bad (just 1.2 million views so far!). The one I choose to embed, however, is also from U2, the more uplifting “It’s a Beautiful Day” (below), some twenty years later (July 2005) at Live 8, viewed by some 3 billion people, a 50% improvement over 1985. This YouTube clip now has over 5 million views.
But, a musical world tour would be missing if I didn’t also tip my [blog] hat to Matt… 20 million views and counting. So, from 2008, “Where in the World is Matt”…?
Some of you may be aware of my statement that there are actually two questions to which I have always found the answer yes 100% of the time, universal truths as it were. Yes, the bad news: death comes to us all. The good news, we all love music. If you are ever stuck in a dinner party conversation, there is always the question: “so, do you like music?” Or, a little more open, “what sort of music do you like?” My father’s line is probably a little more crafty: “what are your hobbies?” Anyway, music has a way of touching people around the world. No wonder it is a sensitive topic on the internet. Music is of course a great purveyor of messages, political, social or personal. I add as a final resource, an article produced by the Guardian a couple of weeks ago: Politics and Protest: 1000 songs, part of a series of 1000 songs everyone must hear… about or for love, heartbreak, sex and parties.
I hope you enjoyed the journey. Please let me know which was your favourite video and if you have any other suggestions.
Sometimes there are wonderful messages that pop up in your life. I am not thinking of the messages on email or Facebook, etc. I am thinking of the random ones that you have to look out for.
There I was, taking a chairlift at the Combloux ski resort and thinking peaceful thoughts, including my upcoming trip to New York to see the Dead. It was a fancy new six seater chair lift and I happened to pick the seat with this little peace symbol in front of me. How often one passes through a day and we don’t recognize the signs! Anyway, I thought I would share this with you and encourage you to find the little signposts in your life, too!
A Search for the Ultimate “Way” in Sports, Business and Life
When people refer to the Great One, MariO or COsby, or then again Michael JOrdan, BjOrn BOrg or Tiger WOOds, one would not be surprised to think that they all share a hidden talent. The hidden or invisible talent? Seeing things in slow motion when, for everyone else, the puck or ball is travelling at the regular speed.
If this is true in sports, I have to believe it can also be true in business. When great business leaders are in the vortex of a crisis, I believe they see things in slow motion, which helps to digest the torrents of complex information, synthesize with precision and decide with crystal vision.
Going a step further, I am inclined to believe that there are also those who actually llive their life in slow motion. While life hurtles by for most of us mortals, some have a special talent that allows them to manage their lives at a different level. Just as the Great One didn’t manage to make the perfect pass on every single occasion, nor did Jack Welch have strokes of strategic genius behind every decision, one cannot expect (nor want) to live a life of perfection. However, for the big decisions and manifest other major dynamic moments, such as what to say in moments of turmoil, some people have the gift, what I would like to call “the gift of O”, the great O, Ω or Omega because of the sense of harmony and equilibrium inherent in that letter. Whether it is knowing what to say to someone in grief, making the impromptu wedding speech or galvanizing support from a bunch of strangers, some people’s energy and mastery of language is just a step above. They manage to size up the situation faster and find the right words quicker. In another sphere, it is the person who grabs the knocked over vase, catches a falling leaf or anticipates the rain. For these people, they seem to be a step ahead as they see life in slow motion. I would characterize the gift as a superior sense of balance, equilibrium & direction, a sense of self, anticipation and a 360˚ vision. Somehow, the gift of O as expressed in Life, as opposed to sports or business, is a much more complete concept.
I started to think about this post when I considered the transferability of the “eyes behind your head” talent that certain great team players have. If you have the genius in one field (sports), how likely is it that you will exhibit the same talent in business or in life? Somehow, I get the feeling that having the gift in one area is as good as it may get. What do you think?
ADDED 22 NOVEMBER: I was turnedon to this NY Times article, “Generation O get its hopes up” (Nov 7) after publishing this post. It would seem that we are indeed in search for the Gift of O!