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Let us endeavor to live
that when we come to die,
even the undertaker will be sorry.
Mark Twain

Each day is a brick to be thrown or build upon. Even at the height of anger we have choices — to defend or to destroy. We choose our roles — protector or protagonist.

Is today a better place, because of actions taken yesterday? Did we roll the rock higher? Did we grow, or were we ground down?

These are simple questions, no less important because of their simplicity. They search for the light that guides us. When every wind is against us, when every path is uphill, what keeps us moving? What makes it all worthwhile?

Or is the secret not to think too much? To let it all just happen and cast our lot into the storm? “Making the world a better place,” is one of the many answers found. Another is: “Take care of those around you.”

The probing question remains… how wide do we cast our net? How large the circle of our friends?

It’s not all chaos. The search, for the reason behind the fury, is the foundation of future progress.

Let our passage turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones.

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The fleas were appalling,
but the honour was great.
Laurie R. King

We demonstrate our respect and gratitude in a variety of ways, from a simple phrase of thanks, to elaborate gifts and celebrations. Our depth of respect and personal resources, determines the quality of our gift.

In turn, we accept gifts and honours with a critical eye, weighing each in turn against personal and private measures. The honour we feel we’ve been bestowed, is determined by our hidden valuations.

Which is the greater honour? To be invited out to dinner, or to be invited into a home to eat? The answers will vary according to taste…

The question is not… where would you rather eat? Or even… which serves the better meal? The question is… Which, according to the giver, bestows the greater honour?

To feel slighted, when only honour was intended, is tragedy masquerading as comedy.

What greater social error can we make, than to misjudge those who do us honour? The gifted bottle of wine, regardless of the vintage, is still a gift. The surprise party, still a gathering of friends. And the public embarrassing praise, still praise.

Sometimes sincere intent is the reality, and uncompromising perception, the problem.

There is nothing permanent
except change.
Heraclitus

That’s a well worked, worn and weary cliché… nevertheless, it’s also the truth. It means that no matter what we’re doing today… we’ll be doing something different tomorrow. Forget the notion of catching up. Drop the idea that things will slow down. Let go of that Status Quo posing as a security blanket. Change is now and forever more, our constant, chaotic companion.

That’s scary. It means that our skills, those abilities that put food on the table… will become useless. It means that how we earn our living today… will not earn us a living tomorrow.

When we lose our ability to earn a living, we lose our competence, our sense of self worth… and our self esteem. Is it any wonder that change hurts?

But our most important skill isn’t something we learnt… it’s our innate ability to learn. Learning how to do something takes care of today… The ability to learn, takes care of our tomorrow’s.

In a world where nothing remains the same… learning to do new things, is our most crucial talent. Reading a magazine, attending a conference, going to night school… these are all investments in our future.

The ability to learn, rides the tides of change.
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If you’d like to hear a slightly different version of this as a 90 second ‘Keynote’ presentation? Click Here

We are changing the world faster
than we can change ourselves,
and we are applying to the present
the habits of the past
Winston Churchill

The grand irony is that in learning something new, we have both accepted, and beaten, the challenge of the future. To learn something new, we have likely invested in an old, possibly outmoded, strategy. Each success under our belt, becomes a weight anchoring us to a particular way of doing things, even learning things. Each past achievement, a burden against future progress.

Play a game of chess against an opponent, and with each win based upon a favourite strategy, we become more vulnerable to a change in tactics. Winning in a proven way, is an obstacle to progress.

Our strength lies, not in past success, but in our ability to unshackle ourselves from both losing -and- winning strategies. The first is easy, the second rare. It requires flexibility, a keen sense of judgment and courage.

Flexibility – because a willingness to change, is a prerequisite of change.

Judgment – because knowing when to change, is an art, not a science.

Courage – because we could be wrong, and must accept risk in order to achieve success.

Nothing remains the same, not even the steps towards success.

Unhappiness is best defined as
the difference between our talents
and our expectations.
Edward de Bono

We suffer from too many options, enticements and temptations. The possibilities before us, make us richer than the Kings of yore. But that nagging desire for even a fraction of what we see, but cannot own, makes us feel as poor as paupers.

The definition of happiness for most, is to own all of the horizion
For others, it is to revel in the sand beneath their feet and the sun above their head.

Defining happiness for yourself is worthwhile. It starts quite often, as a definition of possessions and therefore of wealth. “I’d be happy if I had…”

Sometimes the most desired possession is… Time. A commodity in equal supply for all, both Kings and Paupers, and beyond price if you require a single second more. We make do with what we have – it’s all there is.

Keep following your definition of happiness for a while, and it all boils down to simple things. Pick anything you think would make you happy if you owned it, and keep asking why that would make you happy. Seek out the root reasons. It’s always personal, there’s no Guru on the mountain to help you in this journey, so you’re on your own… again.

Happiness is found in what we are within, not in what we are without.

It better befits a man
to laugh at life,
than to lament over it.
Seneca

Lamentation and grief soon come easy in a world offering ample opportunity for practice. They can, if we let them, become the pre-packaged response to a world that doesn’t seem to care.

The worst tragedies of today, become the rarely told stories of tomorrow… if they are remembered at all. The individual tears, once so painful, are lost in the flood of repetition. Only laughter, defiance and survival in the face of the worst, become the tales we find worth telling.

Once we shed those mandatory tears to cover a tragic loss, there’s a strength acquired by the very act of putting them aside and stepping back onto the path of life. The weight of a grief no longer there, is too heavy to carry for a lifetime.

Truth is, neither tears nor laughter can change what is… except that laughter lifts us higher up, and grief drags us further down.

Every setback, resets the game. Our opponent is blind fate and chance. Our strengths are tenacity and determination. Cut the cards, dry the tears… the game’s afoot.

The really irony is, if we weren’t here, there’d be no need for grief.

Tears are our proof of existence. Our tears are the evidence of their passing. We cry… therefore we are.

Count the Laughter

Laughter is the shortest distance
between two people.
Victor Borge

Laughter is more intimately contagious than a yawn. A child’s bright laughter in a crowd ignites of a ripple of response. Turned heads, smiles and nods of acknowledgement from strangers to parents.

In a street where wordless unconnected strangers brush closer than lovers embrace. We find ourselves laughing together, when a street corner magician pulls grins from an empty face.

Sitting at a play or a show, we’re alone in the dark, until we’re joined in the laughter of those around us. Even if only for a short time, we’ve become part of a joyous, though invisible, community.

In laughter we see a reflection of what’s inside each other. If we laugh at the same thing then perhaps, just perhaps, we’re not alone. There’s someone else like us. At least like us enough, to see the same humour in something outside of ourselves.

Nothing is more effective at intestinal butterfly dispersal, than a roar of laughter from the audience. If they’re laughing they’re listening. If they’re listening then they’re learning.

Want to measure how close a relationship? How strong a team? How healthy a culture? Count the laughs.

Birds of a feather, laugh together