Posts Tagged ‘meaning’

fulfilment from creativity

fulfilment from creativity

February 11, 2011  |  knowledge, life, main blog, motivation, philosophy  |  1 Comment

A friend asked me recently to nominate the things that had given me most fulfilment in life. I asked him for some time to reflect on the question and reverted the next day.

My list went something like this, “Creating a family with my wife; building a house together;   establishing lupins as a new crop with a team at Rutherglen; being part of a team that transformed Corinna from a ghost town into an eco-tourism destination; and the pleasure derived from photography over many years.”

 It wasn’t until I had articulated these experiences that I realised the glue, the common theme, running though each of them. They aren’t about achievements at work or winning competitions. They all involve creativity, and each of them about creating something that has personal interest and meaning.

Greg Barber’s interesting blog suggests that creativity can be related to the newer western principle of making products, building things for a purpose, or the expression of scientific or technological innovation.  Whereas in older cultures, there’s always been an undertone of creativity playing a role in personal fulfilment, private goal setting, and taking an inner journey. My own list involves both aspects.

Creativity in either context often involves a heightened state of consciousness. Things appear to be more vibrant, more alive; colours are vivid, sounds more pure. I love Alan Alda’s quote, “The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.”

Add meaning and understanding to creativity – in your own eyes and through those of others – and it is possible to achieve deep fulfilment. In my own case, the meaning in the five nominated experiences is, in part, related to the fact that people, products and experiences have been created that are likely to outlast my short time on this planet. They were also achieved through co-operation with other people. What has fulfilled you most in your life?

Featured image is one of the refurbished original miner’s cottages at Corinna Wilderness Experience in Tasmania

the dignity of man

It is a while since I blogged and I understand the need for regularity – so please accept my apologies. Here is the first in an eclectic series for 2011.

Occasionally, we intersect with special people in our lives. I had the privilege of working on the Board of one of the few remaining Australian manufacturing companies with such a person for four years. He has a wonderful human touch that seems to accompany respectful people who have that precious ability to listen.

There is no need for this man to be humble, but like many great leaders he is.  He ran Mitsubishi in Australia for seven years and knows more about lean manufacturing than anyone outside Japan. He received the Centenary of Federation Medal for services to the automobile industry. He also ran GNB Batteries and Pacific Dunlop in the USA and mixed it with people like Hilary Clinton and Sam Walton. Some of his stories about Sam are both instructive and amusing.

His name is Graham Spurling – a giant of a man with a unique ability to give “tough love” in the work environment and gentle love in the personal sphere. Graham was a champion of environmental and community responsibility long before they sat on board checklists. As we walked the factory floor, Graham taught us the principles of eliminating hard work, of the dignity of men (and women) in factories and the importance of evaluating change programs through the eyes of the worker. He is the only Director I have ever seen put on a pair of gloves and lift a piece of steel to check how much the workers were being asked to lift. Graham, I salute you, just as many others did when you were a respected Major in the Australian Army Reserve.

Graham, like many good scientists, engineers and leaders, showed us the value of a planned approach and of rigorous analysis to solve problems. His creativity and lateral thinking also surfaced, as they did in his recent proposal to the Government to have one car manufacturing plant in Australia. The logic was compelling (and still is), but the challenge was too hard politically, going the same way as many other value adding  mid to long term projects at State and Commonwealth level. Populism and opportunism prevail!

Today, Graham chairs the prospective junior miner, Phoenix Copper. He is also a much admired figure in his home town of Adelaide where he is tireless in making contributions to society as a mentor, visionary and philanthropist. If you are travelling in the southern Flinders Ranges near Melrose, you might find Graham at his North Star Hotel or at his Bundaleer winery, extolling the virtues of his sparkling shiraz, or discussing an issue of the day with one of the customers. Ask him about the car industry or about the dignity of man. You might get a twenty first century version of the famous fifteenth century Pico della Mirandola oration.

organisational authenticity and meaning

organisational authenticity and meaning

Business bookshelves are groaning under the weight of single ideas padded out to 250 pages, recycled and repackaged messages and occasionally, some ground breaking insights. I recently read a book that falls into the last category – “ Meaning Inc. – the Blueprint for Business Success in the 21st century” by Gurnek Bains. Bains is founder and CEO of YSC, a corporate psychology consultancy with global offices.

This is not another “In Search of Excellence” or “Built to Last” – books that looked in the rear view mirror and reverse engineered the precursors of success. Many of their successful companies floundered. Bains, using the widespread research of YSC, has delivered a concept that is enduring and creates meaning for employees, customers and stakeholders. His premise is that bringing meaning into the workplace is the best way to motivate staff and achieve sustainable high performance, and uses a number of corporate examples on the journey.

Bains argues that the following attributes are present in companies who create meaning:

  • An invigorating sense of purpose that goes beyond business success and which makes people feel that they are changing society as opposed to servicing needs
  • The courage to set extremely challenging goals and to be ground breaking in the pursuit of the core purpose
  • An innovative approach to benefits and the treatment of people which makes them feel special
  • A culture that allows people to be themselves and to feel that they are personally making a difference and utilizing their distinct talents
  • A rigorous and at times almost aggressive approach to evaluating performance and contribution
  • Clear and authentically grounded values which are lived through thick and thin
  • A concern for the sider and particularly, the environmental and societal impacts of business activities
  • Through all the above, an excellent reputation with consumers and other political and social stakeholders
  • Excellent long term performance coupled with a preparedness to sacrifice short term gains if their achievement conflicts with the core purpose and values.

I must say that from recent experience, particularly working with people under 35, this series of prerequisites really resonates. It is all about being authentic. I have now shared this book with four CEO’s who all claim it has impacted significantly on their approach to their leadership and buy in from staff.

A clear sense of purpose and the leadership vision to set a course based on the Bains approach, depends on the CEO and her executive team. Once established, it has a much better chance of success if reinforced through measurement, something which will, in its own right, make a significant contribution to productivity and performance.

happiness - a journey not a destination

happiness – a journey not a destination

September 2, 2010  |  knowledge, life, main blog, motivation, philosophy  |  6 Comments

I’ve been in two minds about writing a blog on the complex subject of happiness – and couldn’t contain myself any longer. Happiness has become such an industry – over 300 million Google references, c0mplete sections in bookstores and a happiness or well-being conference accessible every couple of months. However, in the relentless pursuit of happiness, many people are making the mistake of treating it as a destination rather than a journey.

In this world of instant gratification, people want to find the answers. A bit like one of our children at high school…”Dad, I don’t want to know how to do the maths, I just want the answer”. The happiness answers can be complex and elusive. People suggest that the best starting point is picking the right parents. Possibly true – but unable to be altered.  It’s a state of mind, say some. Don’t worry – be happy! Some quotes on happiness that resonate with me include:

  • “A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.” — Helen Keller
  • “Being happy doesn’t mean everything is perfect. It means you have decided to look beyond the imperfections.” –Unknown
  • “We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”– Frederick Keonig

The last quote causes me to reflect on a trend I see around me. My generalization is that beyond a threshold level of income to meet living requirements, there is an inverse correlation between happiness and further wealth accumulation. Why? I guess because people run out of things to have, buy, use and as their lives have been focused on doing just that, become lost and unfulfilled.

From all I have read, there seem to be two things that seem to appear on every list as precursors for happiness. They are connectedness and generosity. Connectedness – played out through family, friends, organisations, netball teams, men’s sheds and so on, that engenders a sense of belonging. Generosity – that taps into that basic human need to give and care for others. Of course love embraces both connectedness and generosity.

On the next rung of common happiness precursors we find – being active (walking, running, dancing and being vital); taking notice (being aware of the beautiful, curious and unusual and relishing every moment); learning (challenging yourself to gain knowledge and mentally stretch); and gratitude. Joseph Krutch said, with perspicacity, “Happiness is itself a kind of gratitude”.

The Positive Psychology movement, pioneered by the eminent Martin Seligman, has much to offer around happiness. The movement is changing the emphasis of the profession from pathology and mental illness to positive emotion, virtue and strength. If you haven’t already done so, pick up a copy of Seligman’s best seller “Authentic Happiness” Random House 2002. He argues that positive emotions generate strengths and that authentic happiness comes from identifying and cultivating your most fundamental strengths. It’s a powerful, potentially life changing book, one that has caused many to take the next step and enroll in Seligman’s  Master of Applied Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

An alternative, useful for amateurs like me, is to ponder the messages in Positive Psychology Daily News – a free on-line service full of applications for daily life. On the subject of applications, from a sea of happiness apps for i phone, there are two that stand above the pack. One is Live Happy ($1.19) and the other a free app called Gratitude Journal. Both worth down loading from i tunes.

Anyway, the subject is interesting and exploring it makes me happy!

 Finally, a marvellous quote from Nataniel Hawthorne, ““Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you”.

what is your purpose in life?

 Discussing new opportunities over a coffee recently, my colleague surprised me by posing the question, “What is your purpose?” I hesitated and offered a few words about helping others, and then realised that I needed to give this some more thought.  I’ve often thought that it would be quite powerful to have a defined purpose – like a form guide in the back pocket. It was also interesting to read Lenore Taylor in the SMH claiming that the Government’s main problem in the election was a coherent sense of purpose.

This wise colleague who shared the coffee hinted that life’s real purpose was more than about goals and objectives – which are often the means rather than the end, or the things that disguise the real journey. He then shared a challenge he gives some of his mentees, asking them to write a poem about where they are from.  I noted the comment and at the time categorised it as a coaching gimmick. Being a person who likes to tick the box and move on, I went home and penned this:

“My purpose in life is to help people and organisations realise their potential”

Felt a bit chuffed about that – that’s exactly what I do, and enjoy doing it….boards, mentoring, businesses, family, friends….yes, that’s my purpose. I also reflected on how that purpose has evolved over time. Yet, for some reason I kept coming back to this as unfinished business, unable to dismiss the question “where are you from”. As I searched the web for inspiration (and manoeuvred past the religious zealots and their self-righteous offerings of purpose), I discovered the difference between an outer purpose (what you do, your talents, values and preferences) and the inner purpose (where you are from, where you are heading, what brings happiness and sadness).

Realising that my purpose was really an outer purpose, I set to work on the suggested poem, “I  AM FROM” – a very personal and raw offering , one which I did not write to publish, but one which I am prepared to share in this context:

I am from convict stock, from the sunburnt Mallee and Gippsland’s green.I am from the house of love,

built by special parents with shining ideals.

 

I am from genes conferring forward momentum,

giving intelligence and stupidity, played out in different ways.

I am from the school of glass half full

where possibility and hope outweigh doubt and fear,

where first we seek to understand – and then,

take courage to confront, create, change and renew.

 

I am from the world, the experiences, the pain and joy

that come with high expectation.

I come from raucous laughter, of mates and sporting contests

from bush tracks, gardens, beaches and layered urban life,

learning to be authentic in a world that is mostly not,

striving to contribute – for family, friends and beyond.

 

I am of a nature that yearns to be connected, yet

relishes the contrast of escape – where solitude prevails.

I am from the house of love

which cherishes family young and old,

where compassion, generosity and encouragement

nourish and inspire.

 

He was right! The exercise awakened the inner purpose, just as Steve Pavlina does with his worthwhile life purpose in 20 minutes exercise. Steve suggests that you take a piece of paper and keep writing your purpose, clearing your head, writing it again, until you cry. Then you have nailed it. It’s worth a look.  Another exercise used by top coach Margie Hartley at Channel is to ask “When are you at your best and most energised?” What happens then? What are you doing, feeling thinking? The answers give a clue to the direction of your purpose statements.

I ran the exercises and my purpose now is:

“With love, compassion and courage, to add richness to the lives of those around me”

The process of articulating the purpose will probably be an ongoing one, however I am lifted by the thought that this particular purpose will provide fulfilment and growth to me and hopefully add value to others. It’s important to say that there is no right or wrong in this pursuit – it’s a single private measure that adds meaning to life.

What is your purpose?