Tuesday, March 31, 2015

BMW or Merc?

Image source: slate.com / themominmemd.com

I’ve known Leszek Marcinowicz for 55 years.

A gifted linguist, an unappreciated goalkeeper and wicket-keeper, a brilliant father with a forgiving wife, and two off the wall multi-talented kids (Hannah, Saxophonist extraordinaire and Mr. Adventurer, Adam).

He’s a TP HR Practitioner and a Coach to several CEO’s . I was with him in sunny Morecambe by the sea last week and we were talking about transformational change and its cultural implications. He told me people were either BMW’s or Merc’s. . .

BMW – Bitchers, Moaners, Whingers. MERC – Madly Excited Regarding Change.

Bring on the MERC’s.


Monday, March 30, 2015

World Cup Heroes

Well that had a certain inevitability written over it. After New Zealand won a tasty victory against Australia in front of a raucous Eden Park crowd, there was no way the Australians would let themselves fail in front of 95,000 people at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

And so it came to pass. Captain Michael Clarke said before the game that it would be won by skill not emotion, and in fast bowler Mitchell Starc and #3 batsman Steve Smith, the Australians were ‘bloody marvelous.’

For character, inspiration, drama, excitement and explosiveness, the Black Caps were the tournament winners for me. If ‘winning the world from the edge’ is your operating framework, then Brendan McCallum’s team delivered in spades. I was at Eden Park for the Australian game (see above) and saw highlights of the South African and West Indian heart-stoppers.

Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is” (I make an exception for the All Blacks, winning is everything!).

Black Caps, we, your fans, salute you for the most thrilling of summers.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Holy Sh__, Sherlock!!!!!!

Image source: twitter.com

Guest post from Robin Dyke, Adjunct Professor, Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria, on my recent sojourn to the University last week.

KR brought his heart-seeking light the past week to the MBAs and Mentors of the Gustavson School of Business in Victoria, Canada; two ‘can’t hide from’ sessions given – Winning in a High Speed World for our MBAs, Leading Leaders to Greatness for our Mentors.

For both groups an assortment of to-the-gut, unhinging questions asked with outrageous incorrectness, probed with devilish humor, enthusiasm, wisdom, and…truth – all of which freeze frame us in ‘caught naked’ astonishment. And reveled in by all; insightful, powerful, brilliant, inspirational, energy for the soul, truth our reactions to the experience of being pummeled against our ropes.

What was the mysterious reflected truth? Elementary; we are all looking for our own inspiration…AND…we are afraid of not living it! How self-evident and screwed up is that?!

It is the dream...(need he have added stupid!)

Vintage and priceless Roberts: create movements, dream with your heart, execute to be the best. Otherwise, why bother?!

Not the first but Kevin’s fourth bringing-of-light to our part of the world over the past eight years. This time departing with awarded recognition as Honorary Professor of Leadership and Innovation; a small token of appreciation for the enlightenment he casts. Yet a big deal for the University of Victoria as Kevin is the first Honorary Professor in our 50 plus years history.

Holy sh__, Professor!!!!!!

Image source: twitter.com

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Happiness is Love

Image source: ipbarreto.org.br

Like wine, longitudinal studies improve with age. So says Dr George Vaillant, chief curator/analyst/investigator of sorts for the Harvard Study of Adult Development. Better known as the Grant Study, Dr Vaillant and his colleagues followed the lives of 268 healthy, well-adjusted male sophomores for over 70 years, starting in the late 1930s.

If it was wine, it would have made a fine wine indeed, infused with the very real, and often very hard, facts of life. The men were followed through war, careers, marriage, divorce, parenthood, grandparenthood, and old age. It’s no wonder that Dr Vaillant called the key to his study cabinets ‘the key to Fort Knox’.

Early on in the study, Dr Arlie Bock, the original co-creator of the project with the sponsorship of W T Grant, noted that the study was pitched at easing the world’s disharmony. As one of the most comprehensive studies into the human condition, it certainly offered some profound insights. NewsOK recently published an article which summarized the recipe for success for adult development in a few simple words by Dr Vaillant: “Happiness is love. Full stop.”

Dr Vaillant’s study looked at his subjects from every conceivable angle, but focused on the healthy ones – how they fared in the face of adversity and what gave them the edge. In a nutshell, it was love. Healthy, loving relationships with friends and family. Being productive in something they liked doing, no matter how mundane. Overcoming regrets. Getting on with life and enjoying it.

The pursuit of an explanation for happiness didn’t come without self-reflection. Speaking to The Atlantic’s Joshua Wolf Shenk in 2009, Dr Vaillant confessed that he certainly wasn’t a model of adult development, a statement on which Shenk gracefully reflects, “Only with patience and tenderness might a person surrender his barbed armor for a softer shield. Perhaps in this, I thought, lies the key to the good life—not rules to follow, nor problems to avoid, but an engaged humility, an earnest acceptance of life’s pains and promises.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Creativity Illuminated

Image Source / Artist: Instagram.com / Merijn Hos

I’ve said it before (or rather, I have quoted Tom Peters often). Fail Fast, Learn Fast, Fix Fast. A newly launched website, Recently Rejected pays homage to the creative process and the inevitability of rejection, shining a spotlight on unpublished, rejected or unfinished design work.

It supports the notion that rejection isn’t necessarily negative – quite the contrary, in fact. It just is what it is. There are reasons why things don’t make the final cut, reasons you simply don’t see or spare a thought for in a finished product. Artist and art director Mario Hugo, creator of the site, is expectedly philosophical in an interview with Fast Company: “A lot of very interesting, artful creative stuff just isn’t right for the brief…the site is like the death rattle of an old file that would otherwise remain tucked in an older folder.”

The site offers a special insight into the blood, sweat and tears that might go into a piece of work, reminding us of the drive, determination and the steps in between that deliver a final perfect product. Research has even shown that doodling helps with creativity, generating bursts of insight or new ideas. The journey might come with a dose of rejection, but it certainly sets you up for the destination.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Goudy Old Style

Image source: galleyrack.com

March 8th 2015 marked the 150th birthday of Frederic W. Goudy from Bloomington IL, a legendary typeface designer and the man behind more than 115 typefaces that have been described as ‘dignified, sturdy, honest and strong.’ Hard to argue with that. Goudy brought a realization to type design – not just as a rendering of individual letters, but the creation of the most versatile communication.

Goudy had drive and ambition, cutting out a career of ‘change and caprice’ right from the start. He had a keen interest in typography and its principles at an early age, but success did not come easy, as outlined in an article on the man himself published in the August 1984 volume of Upper and Lower Case – The International Journal of Typographics.

The article aptly uses the word ‘undaunted’ to describe Goudy. He was dogged by misfortune, twice having his life work – matrices, master drawings and sketches – destroyed by fire. But he bounced back, and in many ways, those early endeavors and misfortunes set him up for the later pursuits in life which made him so much of a success. He was self-taught, only producing his first designs at the age of 30 and manufacturing his own type at the age of 62, when he secured the necessary equipment and learned the difficult art of engraving. He got stuck-in.

The care Goudy showed to his work was obvious. He truly found his niche upon being asked to design a volume of short stories and deciding that existing typefaces were not to his liking – they had a feeling of openness that disturbed him, and were either ‘too formal or too refined, or too free and undignified.’ He had the courage to do precisely what he wanted, in the way he wanted, and went on to produce Kennerley Old Style, a turning point in his career.

Testament to Goudy’s ability and influence is the fact that many of his typeface designs are still actively used today, literally illustrating the mark of his genius. Goudy Old Style has been Saatchi & Saatchi’s logo typeface for the last 45 years. It’s never gone out of fashion.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Curated Hotels for the Creative Cognoscenti

Hotels are hiring curators, following prominent artists and decorating their spaces with expansive art collections. They’re getting serious about art, and it’s not just art for art’s sake. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal looks at why, but as a hotel connoisseur I can tell you that it boils down to emotions.

Art elicits emotion and hotels want to sell an emotional experience. It’s only natural the two have come together. If you’ve been on the road all day in meetings and are 10,000 miles away from your family, you want a place that could feel like home. If you’re on holiday, you’re looking for adventure, discovery and escape. Sometimes people want to be comforted. Sometimes people want to be spoilt.

It’s admirable to see hotels masquerading as art museums and galleries (and vice versa). Accessible art, too – if you’re staying at the hotel, you can consume at your leisure. You can check out The Telegraph’s stunning round-up of masterpieces on show in hotels aiming for the creative cognoscenti here.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


Image source: fcbarcelona.com

Ugh. My beloved Manchester City just got dumped out of the Champions League after a 0-1 loss to Barcelona. The result would have been a lot worse were it not from a bravura performance from Man City goalkeeper Joe Hart who made 10 saves. But the genius on the park was without question Lionel Messi, who singlehandedly destroyed us.

BBC Sports’ Alistair Magowan called Messi’s performance “a masterclass…after a wonderful exhibition of cute passing and mesmerising dribbling from Messi, there was little either Pellegrini or his team could do to stop the 27-year-old. From the beginning, he was a menace, whether exchanging one-twos with Andres Iniesta or curling free-kicks with the type of spin a baseball pitcher would have been proud of.”

The Daily Mail revived ‘the greatest player ever’ debate, with Gary Lineker leading off with the statement that Messi is “indisputably the greatest player ever to don a pair of football boots.” Six of the 12 Daily Mail writers had Messi at #1, four had Cristiano Ronaldo at #1.

To quote Bob Taylor, a ‘father of the internet’ and recruiter of the genius people at Xerox Parc who ushered in the modern computer interface, “You can’t pile together enough good people to make a great one.”

Take a bow, Mr Messi.

In With My Food Bag

Image source: theresagattung.com

Last week I jumped on board as Chairman of fast-growing home delivery service My Food Bag.

My Food Bag takes the chore out of weeknight cooking by delivering nutritious, seasonal recipes and quality, pre-measured, free-range ingredients to people’s homes each week.

As a customer-first model that delivers taste, health, inspiration, value and convenience, My Food Bag is the full package. Home-delivered grocery services such as My Food Bag will eventually become as mainstream as Amazon and iTunes because they appeal to time-poor professionals and busy families. It’s part of the rapidly-growing global just-in-time food delivery service sector, and of a wider transformational movement occurring around how food is produced and distributed that is attracting significant global investment.

My Food Bag hits the sweet spot because it recognizes people like to cook – without the hassle of assembling for all the ingredients. The company has 15,000 customers already and is expanding beyond New Zealand into Sydney and Melbourne and beyond.

I first experienced My Food Bag as a customer, ordering one of its gourmet grocery boxes during a trip to New Zealand. Then I found out one of its founders is an old mate, Theresa Gattung who was CEO of Telecom NZ and a brilliant marketer and business leader.

I know a thing or two about marketing too, and food, and I’ve led a few teams, so it’s this experience and expertise that I’ll be bringing to My Food Bag. I’m thinking more magic, more creativity and more fun to kitchens and dinner tables around New Zealand and beyond.

Part of the earthy charm of being part of the My Food Bag team is that you have to adopt middle names pertaining to a food you identify with and starting with one of your own initials. Head Chef & Dietitian is Nadia Lemongrass Lim. Group CEO is Cecilia Couscous Robinson. Theresa is Theresa Turmeric Gattung. And I am, er, Kevin Rhubarb Roberts.

It has huge potential and I’m stoked to be part of the My Food Bag crew. Check it out at www.myfoodbag.co.nz.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Leadership Skills at the Price of An Adventure

Image source: gadventures.com

Those who have traveled will understand that it provides much more than an escape from daily routine. Roman philosopher Seneca said “travel and change of place can impart vigor to the mind” and how right he was, and continues to be.

Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures is a full believer in the value created by travel both personally and professionally, to the extent that he lets his employees travel for free. An article by Lisa Evans on Fast Company highlights the wisdom gleaned by Tip through his globe-hopping, and in particular the profound effect it has had on his company’s operations and his leadership style.

He recalls a trip to Tibet that taught him about decision-making based on spirituality, obstacles and karma, which influenced his approach to decision-making in business. Instead of relying on data like he always had, he started making decisions based on his gut instinct, recognizing that a big part of business is emotional. Big decisions with heart; little ones with head.

Tip talks about his appreciation of diversity that is stimulated through travel, by opening his eyes and mind to different ways of doing things. This attitude is reflected in his workplace, where he employs people who have a variety of skills and talents as a way to encourage different ways of thinking and spark new ideas. Related to this is the idea that travel inspires innovation. It helps you think beyond the walls of your office, particularly if you want to create a truly global brand.

One of the key lessons that Tip brings to his business from his travels is the idea that good leadership is about creating a community and building a collective of hearts and minds. I like it – the job of leaders isn’t just to lead, but to create leaders. Empower the people who are interacting most intimately with your customers and who understand your business first-hand.

Finally, Tip talks about pushing beyond your comfort zone, and the way in which travel can act as a catalyst for this. Raise the ante. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, because this is where the magic happens.

All this for the price of an adventure, and at the end of it, you’ll have a great story to tell.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Creativity Catalyst

Image source: cloudfront.net

The word ‘culture’ tends to get thrown around rather loosely. Given that it pertains to “the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society”, it comes as no surprise that it influences creative thinking.

An experiment mentioned in an article on The New York Times pitted ‘individualist’ culture (common in Canada) against ‘collectivist’ culture (common in Taiwan). The former embraces free thinking and expression; the latter humility and group harmony.

The experiment set out to see how culture affects thinking outside of the box. Those in the ‘individualist culture’ group generated more ideas, were more confident in their ideas and more negative about other’s ideas, while the ‘collectivist culture’ group had fewer ideas, were reluctant to criticize others, and focused on creating harmony within the group. All this aside, the collectivists were also seen to have ideas that were more original than the individualists.

Interesting findings. The take-home nugget for me was that there are different ways of nurturing creativity and recognizing cultural diversity in the workplace. That’s not to say that different cultures can’t work together – creativity itself can be enhanced by experiencing other cultures.

A Forbes article on a similar topic identified the challenge for leaders, to recognize and ‘yoke’ together such differences successfully. Just like recognizing the diversity of roles and professions among those who are increasingly drawn together to collaborate and who often have different ideas about getting creative.

There are methods to the madness of creativity. Embrace them.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Motivation Breeds Innovation

Image source: bluelwandle.co.za

‘Innovation’ can be hard to grasp. Put simply, how do businesses, governments and organizations prepare for the future? Matthew Claudel tackles this question in a two-part series about the death, re-birth and total transformation of business innovation on Skyword.

His idea is that the starting point is in fact motivation, not innovation. Claudel calls for a ‘new motivation metric’. One that overtakes the typical business management structure and that looks to the economics of motivation specifically in relation to creativity. People tend to make a general assumption that increased reward = increased motivation, but this is not so when it comes to creative challenges. In fact, increased reward = stifled motivation.

Instead, creative drive should be considered in terms of three elements: autonomy, mastery (developing skills and confidence) and purpose (working towards something that’s bigger than you are). It’s the chemical reaction between these three that sparks motivation. It’s on a similar plane to my view that respect, recognition, learning and joy are what drives people at work and makes them happy.

An article on Entrepreneur provided some practical tips for motivating employees and encouraging motivation:
  • Reciprocate. Give feedback on ideas. If people understand why their ideas did or didn’t fly, they’ll be more likely to offer ideas again.
  • Recognize collaboration. Teamwork can promote motivation.
  • Contextualize. If people understand the purpose and timeframe their creative ideas are for, they’ll be more likely to come up with ideas that are feasible.
  • Celebrate well-considered ideas. Acknowledge the effort and audacity to innovate. It takes guts.
Claudel makes three good arguments for encouraging motivation to promote innovation. First, there’s the ‘needle in the haystack’ phenomenon – you might receive a deluge of ideas if you ask for them, but one good one in the stack could be a game-changer. Second, far, far-fetched ideas might seem extreme, but they could be of crucial importance for your long-term plans. Finally, the drivers behind motivation don’t just produce innovation, but empower your staff to produce results.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Objects, Ideas & Inspiration

Image source: wallpapers87.com

Ask a creative person where they get their ideas from, and they may struggle to give you a straight answer. Some might work forwards - or backwards - with word maps and concepts that resemble a linear path, but articulating the substance or process behind an idea is usually difficult.

An article by Isabel Lloyd in Intelligent Life captures the lines of creative descent for 13 leading designers, by asking them to choose an object that inspires them.

Edward Barber, one half of industrial design studio Barber & Osgerby, spoke of “the perfect balance between proportion and shape and purpose” of his inspiration piece, a wooden oar. Designer Benjamin Hubert speaks to the link between form and function: “the most beautiful objects are the most appropriate. The visual is deeply connected to the functional, and the whole thing has to work in harmony.”

Objects that were reminiscent of childhood were also common, with many designers recalling an object of inspiration from their younger years. Fashion designer Patrick Grant speaks of a Victorian oak trunk, which traveled with two of his ancestors and sat in his bedroom as a teenager. It tells a story, but it’s also an object that works.

Many of the designers seemed to find beauty in an object where others might not, seeing something a little deeper than its practical use or form. Designer Giles Miller is fascinated by the ‘genius’ of the cogs in his grandmother’s carriage clock. Co-founders of the Rug Company in London Christopher and Suzanne Sharp chose a spinning globe, but much more than that, a representation of “a lot of exotica in a small, accessible package.”

Whatever the object may be, the relationship between form and function is a common theme – ‘the most inspiring objects do what they are supposed to do, beautifully.’

My 10 Favorite ‘Other’ Rugby Players

Image source: timeincuk.net Pictured: Tim Horan
  1. Tim Horan
  2. David Campese
  3. Gareth Rees
  4. Mike Gibson
  5. Barry John
  6. Willie John McBride
  7. JPR Williams
  8. Bill Beaumont
  9. Philippe Sella
  10. Pierre Villepreux

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Strangest Accent in The World

Image source: youtube.com

I was recently described by a master class student as being “a very likeable person with the strangest accent in the world (a cross between Lancashire, Kiwi and American) which, in a weird way, actually adds positives to his character.” I’ll take that as a compliment.

Diversity is a wonderful thing. On that note, I enjoyed Siobhan Thompson’s delightful linguistic tour of 17 accents of the British Isles - and the celebrities who speak with them. Celebrity references points of Lancashire (where I hail from) are “Christopher Eccleston or most of the cast of the Downstairs and Downton Abbey.” Revolution begins with language, one million YouTube hits and counting.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Moments That Take Your Breath Away

Image source: imgur.com

Most people would agree that it’s pretty fantastic to experience something that takes your breath away – it makes you feel alive. Not only that, research has found that these moments of awe are good for our health. A University of California, Berkeley, study suggests that the feeling of awe we may experience during encounters with art, nature and spirituality has an anti-inflammatory effect, protecting the body from chronic disease.

Awe can also improve our relationship with time. A Stanford University study found that awe expands our perception of time by anchoring us in the present moment. People are therefore more likely to feel that they’re rich in time – and who doesn’t want that?

Psychologists Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt describe awe as an emotion that is “fleeting and rare” and “on the upper reaches of pleasure and on the boundary of fear”. Sounds hard to attain. On the other end of the scale, in 1964 psychologist Abraham Maslow formulated his theory of ‘peak experiences’ – moments of rapture and wonder in the every day. Maslow emphasized that these moments don’t just come in the form of an intense experience, but from the simplest moments of love, beauty or natural wonder in everyday life.

I tend to subscribe to the latter view. Experiencing awe can be as simple as a state of mind. It’s about exploring the world around us. Getting a sense of something bigger than you are. Widening your gaze, looking out the window and paying attention. For example:
  • Go outside and get amongst nature – visit an aquarium and you’ll be reminded of the vast world that lives under the sea.
  • Get out of your daily routine and take a different route to work. Look up.
  • Watch people achieve amazing physical and mental feats. The All Blacks’ prowess on the field does it for me.
  • Take the time to really listen to music. Take in a piece of artwork. Taste a meal.
As we get older we tend to experience less of these moments – we lose our sense of curiosity in the world around us. We’re reminded of this when we witness the world through the eyes of a child. When was the last time you gazed in wonder at the moon?

And please stop saying Awesome… When you mean Good!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Passion and Heartbreak

Image source: best-posts.com

Vincent van Gogh once said that he’d rather die of passion than of boredom. He might have been referring to love for his work, but love in an emotional sense often brings both passion and heartbreak. Scientists think they’re close to uncovering a cure for love – but would we want it? Without it, we’d just have the moderated bit in the middle – boredom.

I’m not one for moderation. Show me the passion any day.

One of the greatest things to come out of love, and the loss of it, is music. For every upbeat, thigh-slapping tune about falling in love, there are a handful of others that lie on the other side. I came across these lists of music of love and heartbreak on The Guardian. They confirmed for me that a) music manages to capture the feeling of love (and heartbreak) so wonderfully and b) a cure might not be the right answer for everyone.

A few stand-outs from the ‘heartbreak’ list:
  • Bon Iver, ‘Flume’: “…less a song about heartbreak than the sound of heartbreak… It’s almost worth being broken up with to fully appreciate the belligerent heartbreak of this record.”
  • Leonard Cohen, ‘So Long, Marianne’: “He sings, painting the painful nuances of a break-up with a complexity rarely heard in pop.”
  • Bob Dylan, ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’: “A bruised heart can turn the best of us into bitterly deluded fools… he gets in a spiteful parting shot – ‘you just kinda wasted my precious time’ – but he’s left arguing with himself. The object of his scorn is long gone.”
  • Fleetwood Mac, ‘Go Your Own Way’: “The superbly embittered Go Your Own Way saw foundering front-couple Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks snarling Buckingham’s barbed lyrics at each other, while the equally anguished John and Christine McVie soldiered grimly on the wings. The pain was worth it: thanks to this single, Rumours went on to sell 30m copies worldwide.”
  • U2, ‘With Or Without You’: “A brooding, hypnotic song about the violence of love and lust – ‘on a bed of nails she makes me wait’… An emotionally draining tour de force.”

Thursday, March 5, 2015

10 Favorite not so famous singers worth a look

Artist/Image source: Amy Macdonald/4everstatic.com
  1. The Felice Brothers
  2. Ryan Bingham
  3. Amy Macdonald
  4. Kirsty MacColl
  5. Dory Previn
  6. Patti Scialfa
  7. James McMurtry
  8. Tomislav Bralic
  9. Andy Fairweather Low
  10. Chuck Brodsky

Digital Chutzpah

Image source: goinswriter.com

Philosopher Daniel Dennett says the definition of happiness is to find something bigger than you are and dedicate the rest of your life to it. Perhaps that’s why some businesses thrive – because they have people behind them who subscribe to the idea that the role of business is to make the world a better place, and everything else becomes energized by that goal. Business meets needs, solves problems, innovates, improves lives, creates jobs and offers everyday joy.

The premise of Peter Diamandis and Stephen Kotler’s new book, Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World is on a similar wavelength – that entrepreneurs can solve global-scale problems.

The book is touted as a guide to ‘exponential digital chutzpah’ in a world where failure for entrepreneurs is more likely to result from thinking too small than too big. It teaches entrepreneurs how to thrive in the face of advancing technology, using a framework called the ‘six D’s of exponentials’:
  • Digitalization – while our ancestors relied on telling stories around the campfire as a form of transmission, now we can share instantly with the push of a button.
  • Disruption – it’s happening in any and every industry, with innovation creating a new market and disrupting an existing one. Kodak even became a victim of its own invention.
  • Deception – a period where exponential growth by new technologies goes unnoticed and is downplayed by existing industries. Then it takes over in a big way.
  • Demonetization – technology is making not just things, but knowledge, free. In a virtual sense, digital cameras made film free by making it digital.
  • Dematerialization – at odds with our society of consumerism. Smartphones aren’t just smart – they’re also a camera, watch, notepad, calculator...and that’s before you start downloading apps. They’ve caused entire product lines to almost disappear.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wonderful Places

Image source: Brian Joseph

If you’re looking to travel the world, there’s no shortage of recommendations of where to go or opinion on what to do and see. The Huffington Post recently published an article that collated the favorites of Pulitzer Prize winners, world champion athletes, entrepreneurs, artists and more. Forbes turned to serious globe trotters and standouts in the travel field for input.

While there’s an obvious bent towards identifying obscure places that people have stumbled upon in the journeys of their lives, I found it comforting that places close to home also feature (two places that I consider ‘home’, Auckland, New Zealand and the Lake District in Cumbria, UK are in my favorites).

Images of these places tend to say it all, but I was particularly taken by the explanations people gave about why they chose a certain location as their favorite, and the thought given for the emotions they so carefully attached. There were some common themes. Magical and overwhelming scenery. Remote destinations and no interruptions. Bare feet and no attitude. The people.

Scientist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond spoke of New Guinea: “Within this island, you get the whole world…you can stand on a coral reef and look up at a glacier…there are hundreds of different tribes with hundreds of different languages, so from a human point of view, it is the most exciting place in the world.”

CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg spoke of The Lau Archipelago, Fiji: “Great storytelling, and a never-ending feeling of community and love that lives with you forever.”

Author Lalita Tademy spoke of Positano, on the Amalfi Coast of Italy: “Up on the cliffs, perched up above everything, watching the ocean, the boats. It was just stunning. I spent so much time on the balcony, just staring. It was inspiring… Gorgeous.”

Places that make you think and that make you reflect on life. They don’t need to be far flung. They’re out there.

And remember as Snoopy and Charlie Brown know, “in life its not where you go – its who you travel with.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Writing: The Craft

Image source: goinswriter.com

In our bite-sized content driven culture, there is a tendency to read without considering the craft of a well-written piece of work. We focus on devouring the content, without paying much attention to the words, the rhythm, the fun, the mystery. An article by Joel Achenbach on Princeton Alumni Weekly harks back to this in a delightful tribute to his former professor, John McPhee.

McPhee was known for his passion and dedication to his craft. It was contagious. His sharp wit was also a trait that his students appreciated.

McPhee’s teachings on writing were rich and numerous. I’ll share a few here.
  • On structure: “Readers are not supposed to see structure. It should be as invisible as living bones. It shouldn’t be imposed; structure arises within the story.”
  • On words: He taught his students to revere language, to care about every word, to use a dictionary, to pay attention to rhythm and to refrain from treating synonyms interchangeably.
  • On simplicity: Sometimes writing a simple description can take days (“if you do it right, it will slide by unnoticed. If you blow it, it’s obvious”).
  • On restraint: “Novice writers believe they will improve a piece of writing by adding things to it; mature writers know they will improve it by taking things out.”
That’s all folks.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Bringing the Brain Up to Speed

Image source: behappytips.com

There are always going to be things competing for our time or attention. Some people like to organize their lives by spending less time on the mundane and more time on the good stuff. The important not the merely urgent. But it seems there’s always room for improvement – who doesn’t want to have more fun?

A recent article in Fortune by Laura Vanderkam offered some tips from neuroscientist Daniel Levitin on how. Levitin explains that part of the problem is that our brains are stuck in the hunting and gathering age due to the slow pace of evolution, so we have to find ways to bring it up to speed.

His suggestions (with some personal perspectives):
  • Give things a place to reduce the amount of mental energy you spend trying to find things again. Keys on the hook, cellphone by the door. Freedom within a framework.
  • Create triggers to help you snap out of auto-pilot. Modern technology helps. Set reminders on your cellphone to chime at certain times or in certain locations – so you remember to buy milk when you’re at the store instead of before or after.
  • Keep track of your networks. Don’t rely on your brain to remember the names of people you meet or the things you talked about – it’s not always up for the job. Our ancestors had smaller social circles. Make a note.
  • Focus on one thing at a time. Don’t indulge in this nonsensical multitasking behalf….where 3 things get done averagely (at best) simultaneously.
  • Don’t agonize over things you can’t change.
  • Finally, sleep. It’s one of our biggest weapons for cognitive success. Get enough of it.