My best friends and I

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You and I have known each other

long enough that we are like family.

Which means we have earned the right

to hate each other from time to time

but that doesn’t mean

there’s still not love underneath!

May 2019 – Perth, Western Australia.

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Stay

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You can run away from yourself so often,

and so much,

just because the broken pieces of you cut your feet too deeply if you stay around for too long.

But then what if someone were to come along;

and pick up those pieces for you?

Then you wouldn’t have to run away from yourself anymore.

You could stop running.

If someone sees you as something worth staying with

— maybe you’ll stay with yourself, too.

March 2019 – Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Tokyo, Japan.

What great leadership and music have in common

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This article is too good not to share!

“At the concert, every violin player, drummer and singer knew why they were there and what their role was. The result was harmony. The same is necessary in any organization. Each employee needs to be on the same page. And that page must be seen, understood and emotionally absorbed.”

Jim Crupi is a management consultant with a long, brilliant resume. (Heard of CNN? He helped set the strategic stage that led to its creation.) Here, he distills some of his best leadership advice into one memorable metaphor.

Music is all-consuming. Our reaction to a great song can be so visceral that we are forever connected to it. Hearing that song can bring you back to a moment in time, and often, it binds you to a person too; every time you hear it, you are there with them again, reliving a wonderful moment. This is something every leader aspires to do with those around them as well: to inspire and move people like great music does.

In 1996, I watched a concert with singers from around the world, including Zucchero and Pavarotti. I was amazed by the performers — but beyond that, I was enthralled by the leadership lessons embedded in the music. That concert helped me frame these lessons, which pull together stories and insights from some of the great people I’ve worked with.

1. A leader is both a singer and a songwriter.
People don’t really listen unless there is an emotional impact that causes them never to forget. As a leader you have to touch people’s hearts as well as their heads. What you say, the lyrics, must tell a meaningful story — and the way you tell that story, the music, must resonate in the heart of the listener.

Many executives tend to deal more with the mind and not so much with the heart. One executive I’ve worked with is really, really good at solving for this. He’s the company’s founder and is looked at by everyone as the person in charge. Yet in every company-wide meeting, he talks about what the company has accomplished as a whole, and he calls out other people in very positive ways. He focuses on their values and their commitment to excellence. It is the music of his leadership, and it is subtle but powerful.

He pays attention to the little things. For example, he asked a nutritionist to study the snacks in the company break room and make sure all of them provided nutritional value. It’s one thing to tell people “we care about you” — it’s another thing when somebody is paying that kind of attention. Every time you go into the break room, you know you’re cared for. It’s a decision that’s been made intellectually, but it impacts you emotionally because you know it’s in your best interest. That’s the music.

Ted Turner was another leader who was really good at this. His counter-intuitive insights forced people to think in ways that touched people’s hearts beyond normal business decisions. I was asked to help frame a strategic workshop that ultimately led to the creation of CNN and headline news on a global scale. At one point in the discussion, the company’s MBA-educated executives in the room were thinking: “Okay, we need to figure out how we’re going to broadcast in German, in Chinese, etc.” And Ted Turner, as only Ted could, says, “Y’know, I know that’s what they taught you in business school, but we’re not going to do that. How many of you have ever heard of the Tower of Babel?” All these executives looked at each other as if to say: “What is he talking about?” Ted went on: “We’re going to broadcast CNN in English in order to teach the world a common language, so that people can understand each other and create peace in the world.” You could see the intellectual business argument immediately dissolve and the music take hold. Trust me, nobody has forgotten that moment in the history of that company — nobody.

2. Make sure everyone is on the same sheet of music.
At the concert, every violin player, drummer and singer knew why they were there and what their role was. The result was harmony. The same is necessary in any organization. Each employee needs to be on the same page. And that page must be seen, understood and emotionally absorbed.

When I first start working with any new company, I go onsite and talk with the key people and write a report about what I have learned. In my first conversations with one particular company, I asked 15 people: “What’s the vision of this company?” I got fifteen different answers. So I wrote my report, and recommended that the executive I was working with should take this group offsite for a workshop, to create a vision statement and set three strategic goals they could commit to. Eighteen months later, I came back and interviewed this group and a few more people, a total of thirty employees. This time when I asked them what the company vision was, everyone had the same answer. Everyone was on the same sheet of music and understood how their role and the role of others created strategic harmony.

3. Develop a simple theme — then repeat it.
Have you ever noticed how a song’s lyrics repeat themselves over and over again? They become so familiar that you sing along; you absorb them into your being. An effective vision statement does the same thing. As a leader, you need to put it in language so everybody can “see” it and understand it. And get it into everybody’s hands. Remember that company that had 15 different ideas of what the vision was? When they developed their new vision statement, the CEO held a company-wide meeting for it. He said, “Every time you make a decision within your own department, ask one question: ‘Does it line up with our objectives?’” If you go into his employees’ workspaces today, they have that vision statement on a card in their offices. What’s amazing is, they can tell you the vision and the key strategic objectives without even looking at the card. It has become part of who they are and how they do what they do.

It’s the job of a leader to get a team to see and feel the mission, vision or task. People tend to focus on the familiar, on their previous experience. You need to get their attention on the vision — and keep it. They have to hear and see what you are after, over and over again, until that story becomes so dominant that they commit it to memory and their focus is absolute and intuitive.

The vision should be one sentence long, simple and picture-like, or it’s worthless. When General Tommy Franks led the 2003 invasion into Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, his vision statement was simple: “Get to Baghdad as fast as you can.” Now that’s visual. He left it up to his individual commanders to figure out how to execute that vision.

4. Get the right players around you.
Playing in the concert were people from many nationalities and ethnic groups, children and senior citizens, women and men, it did not matter. All were dedicated to excellence and being in harmony with one another for a common purpose. Their cultural diversity built a harmony and strength that fed off itself to produce results. It is the same in an organization.

When I used to hire people for my organization, I was always reviewing a pile of resumes. Of course, by the time the resumes got to me they were all good — everyone was equally qualified. So I always asked these final candidates just two questions. First: Tell me about your life. I wanted to hear people talk about who they were, and what formed them. The second question: Rank, in order of importance, the five most important things in your life. Some people would say money, faith, family, etc.; others faith, family, money, etc. Everybody had a different answer. But their stories and answers gave me a clue to their character. I really listened and watched their behavioral response. Once the interview was over and they left the room, I’d ask myself one question: If I’m in a boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and the boat is in trouble, who do I want in that boat with me? Those are the people I’d hire. They were the people who had the character I could count on when things got tough. Every organization has tough moments. You want people working with you whom you can count on when the tough moments come. I always chose character and attitude over skill, and that insured I always had the right people in the boat.

5. Let others shine.
The concert in Modena, Italy, had three conductors, who were somehow invisible. It was the same with Zucchero and Pavarotti. One minute they were stars; the next minute, they were in the background, replaced by the voices of children or the sound of a guitar player. The focus was on the music, not the individuals. It is the same in a company. The focus should be on the message and the music.

One executive I worked with had been an Army company commander — a leader of 150 people. The military regularly takes units into the field for training, in order to grade the leader and their unit’s combat readiness. So one night this commander is about to start a graded night attack exercise. Just before the exercise starts, he turns to the evaluator and says: “Before you start, I’m telling you right now that I’m dead, one of my sergeants who is responsible for resupplying ammunition to the troops is dead, and one of my lieutenants is dead.” The evaluator says, “Are you out of your mind? Your unit is going to fail the test!” But the former company commander said: “If they can’t do this without me, then I’ve not served them well.” Guess what: His unit had the highest scores of any company evaluated. He had ensured that his team was well trained. They had the confidence to act in spite of unforeseen and compromising circumstances. He said, “I wasn’t out front, I wasn’t even there.”

6. Cultivate commitment and enthusiasm; they’re contagious.
As the music reached into the hearts of the audience, everyone began singing along and clapping their hands with the singers and the orchestra. At the end of the song, the singers and the orchestra and the 1,000 people in the audience were as one, united by purpose.

I remember once talking to some pension fund managers, and I asked one of them: “What are you here to do?” And I love what he told me: “Well, if I’m successful, I’ll be providing jobs for people.” There’s a difference between people who think “I’m investing money for this pension fund, or that university,” and others who say, “We’re making it possible for people to live their lives. Our real clients are the students who need a scholarship, the families whose livelihood is preserved by our fund.” That kind of commitment permeates the culture of the company.

It is my experience that people who commit themselves to something bigger than themselves are just different people. There’s some new research that shows that these people have a more significant impact than those who see what they do as just a job. They are so driven beyond the normal that their actions are contagious. People stand in awe of their determination and drive.

7. Commit yourself to a bigger cause than yourself.
The concert was not just about the music; it was dedicated to raising money for Bosnian refugees. People will follow you if they come to believe that you are about something greater than yourself.

I’ve helped build leadership development programs across 40 countries in the world as a volunteer, and all I can tell you is that you can’t compete with the heart of a volunteer. There are 62 corporate executives, some with their spouses, who volunteer to serve as facilitators and coaches in these leadership programs; they pay their own way to the Middle East, Southeast Asia or Central Eurasia and spend two weeks of their own time with no compensation. Big things happen when people see others giving of themselves with nothing expected in return. One of the participants in a two-week leadership program in the Middle East was involved with a local NGO in Oman that served the deaf. He was so inspired by the example of these volunteers that he wanted his NGO to produce the very first Braille book in Arabic — and he did it. He told me later, “This program taught me that I needed to do something bigger than myself, beyond this program, beyond my family and beyond my country. I said to myself that if these people will come 10,000 miles away from home to help me, why not expand my efforts to serve the entire Middle East?”

The key to understanding the music of leadership is to understand that really good leaders know how to manage emotions as well as direction. In effect, they are in tune with those around them. And when the time comes to sing a new song so that they can take people in a new direction, they do just that.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim Crupi is president and founder of Strategic Leadership Solutions. He thinks about the best and smartest ways to manage business, a lot.

Silence speaks

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There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing.

There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest,
and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city.

There is silence after a rainstorm,
and before a rainstorm,
and these are not the same.

There is the silence of emptiness,
the silence of fear,
the silence of doubt.

There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used,
or from a piano with old dust upon its keys,
or from anything that has answered to the need of a man,
for pleasure or for work.

This kind of silence can speak.

Its voice may be melancholy,
but it is not always so;
for the chair may have been left by a laughing child or the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay.

There is a silence appears like fine flakes at first,
but becoming gradually heavier;
a blue and white dazzling light on everything one sees,
the ice-covered branches of the hemlocks sparkle,
bending low and tinkling in the sharp thin breeze,
and iridescent crystals fall and crackle on the snow-crust
with the winter sun drawing cold blue shadows from the trees

Whatever the mood or the circumstance,
the essence of its quality may linger in the silence that follows.

It is a soundless echo.

March 2019 – 湯沢高原スキー場, Tokyo, Japan.

Eat, Pray, Love

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The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying;

the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving.

I didn’t want to destroy anything or anybody.

I just wanted to slip quietly out the back door,

without causing any fuss or consequences,

and then not stop running until I reached Greenland.

November 2016 – Zaanse Schans, the Netherlands.

One day

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Every quote,

every book,

every film seemed to suggest that

one day’ someone would

come into her life

and love her with an intensity

and a passion she had never experienced before.

And to their credit they were right;

It all came;

and went so fast;

it really did feel

as if it were just

one day

February 2019 – Sabah, Malaysia

Love strikes away the chains of fear

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We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free…

March 2018 – Bali, Indonesia

Mouthful of Forevers


There will always be those
who say you are too young and delicate
to make anything happen for yourself.

They don’t see the part of you
that smolders.
Don’t let their doubting drown out
the sound of your own heartbeat.

You are the first drop of rain in a hurricane.

Your bravery builds beyond you.
You are needed by all the little girls
still living in secret,
writing oceans made of monsters,
and throwing like lightning.

You don’t need to grow up
to find greatness.
You are so much stronger
than the world
has ever believed you could be.

The world is waiting for you
to set it on fire.

Trust in yourself;

and burn.

So Will I

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God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain
No syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice

And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I

I can see Your heart in everything You say
Every painted sky
A canvas of Your grace
If creation still obeys You so will I
So will I …

2018 – Borneo, Malaysia.

Return from Rainbow Bridge

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Have you ever walked along a beach?
You walk towards something in the distance.
For the longest while it never seems to get any closer even though you are walking and walking.

Then all of a sudden, you are there.
You’ve arrived at last.
That’s what grief is like.

Meanwhile we are running with you in the spray of the surf at the edge of the shore where the sand meets the sea.
We are cheering you on.

March 2014 – Bali, Indonesia.

Oksana Rus

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Tipani flower skies blazing rapture of color laced tree crowns silhouettes along the ocean diamond necklaced beach…
of my heart in fragrance of love spilled by caressing kisses of the sun opening the gates to dive deep through away to horizons with no return…”

Silhouette
/sɪlʊˈɛt/

noun: silhouette; plural noun: silhouettes

1. the dark shape and outline of someone or something visible in restricted light against a brighter background.

March 2014 – Bali, Indonesia.

PS. You have to be brave

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You don’t fall in love like you fall in a hole.
You fall like falling through space.

It’s like you jump off your own private planet to visit someone else’s planet. And when you get there it all looks different: the flowers, the animals, the colours people wear.

It is a big surprise falling in love because you thought you had everything just right on your own planet, and that was true, in a way, but then somebody signaled to you across space and the only way you could visit was to take a giant jump…

And you can bring your friends to visit.
And read your favorite stories to each other.
And the falling was really the big jump that you had to make to be with someone you don’t want to be without.

That’s it.

March 2014 – Bali, Indonesia.

Remembrance Year – the long way

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Remember how we forgot?

Once upon a time, we were young
Our dreams hung like apples
Waiting to be picked and peeled

And hope was something needing
to be reeled-in
So we can fill the always empty big fish bin with the one that got away
And proudly say that “this time, impossible is not an option”

Because success is so akin to effort and opportunity they could be related
So we took ‘Chances’
We figure skated on thin ice
Believed that each slice of life was served with something sweet
on the side

And failure was never nearly as important as the fact that we tried
That in the war against frailty
and limitation
We supplied the determination it takes to make ideas and goals the parents of ‘Possibility’

And we believe ourselves to be members of this family
Not just one branch on one tree
But a forest whose roots make up a dynasty …

December 2015 – Death Valley, Eastern California, USA.

Nightingale


You are such a potent wine, my friend.
To escape your withdrawal effects,
tomorrow I will drink in excess.

I was a harp you immaculately
plucked at will.
Your score, the nightingale song within
notes composed to imprison
and bear me wings.
Oh, if only they could hear how it sings!

I am now beyond parched.
My strings left untouched.
You are no longer an oasis, my friend,
but a mirage soon coming to an end.

A Map of the Known World

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They say no land remains to be discovered,
no continent is left unexplored.
But the whole world is out there, waiting, just waiting for me.

I want to do things
— I want to walk the rain-soaked streets of London, and drink mint tea in Casablanca.
I want to wander the wastelands of the Gobi desert and see a yak.
I think my life’s ambition is to see a yak.

I want to bargain for trinkets in an Arab market in some distant, dusty land. There’s so much.
But, most of all,
I want to do things that will mean something.

March 2014 – Bali, Indonesia.

West with the Night

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We swung over the hills and over the town and back again,
and I saw how a man can be master of a craft, and how a craft can be master of an element.

I saw the alchemy of perspective reduce my world, and all my other life,
to grains in a cup.

I learned to watch, to put my trust in other hands than mine.
And I learned to wander.
I learned what every dreaming child needs to know — that no horizon is so far that you cannot get above it or beyond it.

September 2018 – Up above the 36,000 ft.

Sara Teasdale

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I thought of you and how you love this beauty, and walking up the long beach all alone.

I heard the waves breaking in measured thunder, as you and I once heard their monotone.

Around me were the echoing dunes, beyond me the cold and sparkling silver of the sea —

We two will pass through death and ages lengthen, before you hear that sound again with me.

August 2018 – Brighton, Victoria, Australia.

You Speak

You liberate me from my own noise and my own chaos
From the chains of a lesser law You set me free

In the silence of the heart You speak
And it is there that I will know You
And You will know me

In the silence of the heart
You speak, You speak

You satisfy me till I am quiet and confident
In the work of the Spirit I cannot see

In the silence of the heart You speak

Nicole Bailey-Williams

I was a dandelion puff…

Some saw the beauty in me and stooped quietly to admire my innocence.

Others saw the potential of what I could do for them,
so they uprooted me, seeking to shape me around their needs.
They blew at my head, scattering my hair from the roots,
changing me to suit them.

Yet still others saw me as something that was unworthy and needed to be erased.

Flower Dance

Lucy:“They serve the purpose of changing hydrogen into breathable oxygen,and they’re as necessary here as the air is, on Earth.”

Ray:“But I still say……they’re flowers.”

Lucy:“If you like.”

Ray:“Do you sell them?”

Lucy:“I’m afraid not.”

Ray:“But, maybe we can make a deal.”

Lucy:“What do you mean?”

Ray:“Oh, you see, you won’t have to send them anywhere. I’ll pay for them, and then, I’ll leave them here, for you.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

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There was a wall.
It did not look important.
It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared.
An adult could look right over it,
and even a child could climb it.

Where it crossed the roadway,
instead of having a gate it degenerated
into mere geometry,
a line, an idea of boundary.

But the idea was real.
It was important.
For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall.

Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced.
What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.

November 2016 – Zaanse Schans, the Netherlands.

The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

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The sand in the hourglass runs from one compartment to the other, marking the passage of moments with something constant and tangible.

If you watch the flowing sand, you might see time itself riding the granules.

Contrary to popular opinion, time is not an old white-haired man, but a laughing child.

And time sings.

May 2018 – Sabah, Malaysia.

Peace, I leave with you …

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Another round of self battle left me with the swollen eyes and pounding head.
Indeed, the words came beforehand so that my heart could sustained ….

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27

Who can accept us wholeheartedly?! – only Jesus does.

The Spice Box of Earth

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A kite is a victim you are sure of.
You love it because it pulls
gentle enough to call you master,
strong enough to call you fool;

because it lives
like a desperate trained falcon
in the high sweet air,
and you can always haul it down
to tame it in your drawer.

A kite is a fish you have already caught
in a pool where no fish come,
so you play him carefully and long,
and hope he won’t give up,
or the wind die down.

A kite is the last poem you’ve written
so you give it to the wind,
but you don’t let it go
until someone finds you
something else to do.

Leonard Cohen.

July 2017 – Sabah, Malaysia.

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Nescio – Amsterdam Stories

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“It was in December.
I stood in the back of the tram, all the way in the back.
It drove through the country and stopped and started again, it took hours, the countryside was endless.

And the sky got bluer and bluer and the sun shone until it seemed like flowers would have to start sprouting out of the country bumpkins.
And the red roofs in the villages and the black trees and the fields, most of them covered with straw, had it nice and warm, and the dunes sat bareheaded in the sun.

And the road lay there, white and smarting, it couldn’t bear the sunlight, and the glass panes of the village streetlamp flashed, they had trouble withstanding the glare too.

But I got colder and colder.
And the tram ran as long as the sun shone.
It’s a long ride from Hillegom to Leiden and the days are short in December.
By the end, a block of ice was standing there on the tram staring into the big stupid cold sun that was flaming red as though the revolution was finally starting, as though offices were being blown up all over Amsterdam, but still it couldn’t bring a spark of life back to my cold feet and stiff legs.

And it kept getting bigger and colder, the sun, and I got colder and stayed the same size, and the blue sky looked down very disapprovingly:
“What are you doing on that tram?”

November 2016 – Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Sol Luckman, Beginner’s Luke

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Such is life, imaginary or otherwise:
a continuous parting of ways,
a constant flux of approximation and distanciation,
lines of fate intersecting at a point which is no-time,
a theoretical crossroads fictitiously ‘present,’

an unstable ice floe forever drifting between was and will be.

December 2015 – Napa Valley, California.