Monday, 26 October 2015


The thoughts below come from the notion of fear and faith being perfectly correlated, inversely.  The more you have of one, the less you have of the other.

Paralyzed by FEAR
Fear of admitting failure or of having made a mistake
Fear of losing what is most important
Fear of what others think or believe
Fear of the unknown
Fear of retaliation
Fear of losing control
Fear of making another mistake, thus inaction

Guided by FAITH
Believing in a higher power, greater than self
Nurturing the spiritual dimension of a whole person
Being connected to core values and beliefs
Acting on principles of honesty and integrity
Valuing justice, goodness, mercy, beauty and peace
Feeling to be part of the natural world of creation

Renewed by SPIRIT
Finding courage and confidence within
Accepting help and support from others
Stepping up to the challenge
Meditation, contemplation and feeding your spirit
Valuing self, regaining self-respect, value and worth
Confronting reality, knowing you can deal with it
Reviewing strengths and weaknesses, capitalizing on strengths

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Personal Power, Influence and Changing the Status Quo

In most organizations there is a prevailing culture that is either receptive to creative change or resistant to it.  As someone who might wish to influence change that you believe would improve the overall performance and position of your organization, it might help you to know how best to do that.   Everyone has qualities and characteristics upon which you can draw to be a person of influence.  When you know which power sources are the most effective, you can invest more energy and skill in using those sources to effect positive change in your working environment.
Here are eleven power sources for your consideration with a brief definition of each one and then a few questions that might help inform you as to which are the most productive sources in bringing about desired change.  The first five are personal in nature and the second five are more organizational and institutionally related.  The last one, will power, is perhaps the most influential of all as it becomes the fuel and renewable source of energy for all the others.
1.    Knowledge – expertise that differentiates you from others, sometimes advanced study, training and certifications
2.    Expressiveness – how you communicate and verbalize your ideas to others and how they see/hear you and respond
3.    History – built up networks and relationships over time
4.    Attraction – care with appearance, enjoy being with others and vice-versa, charisma
5.    Character – honest, direct, sensitive, with integrity intact
6.    Role – position with some authority and power to affect others
7.    Resource – access to finances and other sources of support
8.    Information – able to present and interpret information others may not have
9.    Network – well-connected inside and outside and maintain important connections with others
10. Reputation – known as someone who gets results, high performing
11. Will – determined through appetite and desire, not easily discouraged, inwardly and outwardly strong
Personal power is relational and depends very much on the context in which you are working. Questions for you to consider include the following:
1.    Which sources of power are most important for you in your defined role in your particular organization?
2.    Which of these sources might you need to develop further in order to enhance and increase your influence?
3.    Which sources are your strengths, i.e. best assets, and how can you capitalize on those?
Much has been written about how to influence others without having the authority to do so.  Jesse Lyn Stoner wrote a short blog, “How to Influence Without Authority” and in addition to her eight portals of influence ( here are three guidelines she puts forth on a strategy for influencing other people.
“Put it out there. Communicate clearly what you want… make sure you’ve been understood correctly.
Be transparent. No hidden agendas. Don’t withhold information… People respect a sincere attempt at influence and resent being manipulated.
Do your best AND be willing to let go. If an appeal to logic doesn’t work, try a different source of influence such as an appeal to values, building a credible network of support, or obtaining financial resources…If you are too attached, you are less likely to be heard. At some point, if you have done your best and have not been successful, you need to let it go.”

The paradox of power, argues Dacher Keltner of Stanford, is this.  “True power requires modesty and empathy not force and coercion and… what people want is social intelligence.”  Many of us were not attuned to advancing ourselves nor promoting self-interest and yet that is exactly what is required if we are to use our personal power to influence others and the organizations where we invest ourselves in order to effect positive change.

Should you wish to attend a Symposium on "Understanding Personal Power" there are still spaces remaining in this workshop/seminar Nov 18-19 in Barcelona.  You may get in touch directly with ECIS in order to register: 

(For some interesting research on personal power, see “The Power Differential and the Power Paradox” by Cedar Barstow)

Monday, 12 October 2015


About 6 years ago I wrote my “official” letter of retirement after 12 years of working in association with a fine and well-educated group of professional colleagues.  I had the liberty and benefit of a “home office” in northern New Mexico during that time although that required a fair amount of travel.  It’s the old cost/benefit ratio of take your choice and pay the price to get what you want. 

In December, 2010, I reviewed my work, looked ahead, and I believed the time was right to make the transition. The past five years have confirmed that it was a good decision. It was the conclusion of 50 years of full-time employment in several different settings. Each one was challenging and rewarding, and perhaps most of all, they contributed significantly to my experience of lifelong learning. I catalogued some of those in this piece:

During these past 5 years I have enjoyed the luxury of working very part-time, accepting only those invitations that interest me the most.  I have had more time to read, write, travel, fish, hike and be immersed in the natural world.  We made a move from a large house and property in the country to a much smaller and less expensive place in the city. We are more focused on convenience and comfort while remaining adventurous and engaged in the larger world.  We spent the past several months in Mexico, highly recommended.  For those worried about safety, don't go.  We feel very safe.

For many of us retirement does not mean what it sounds like but rather a shifting of gears, a different agenda of activities and continuing to be aware of our mental, physical, social, emotional and spiritual engagements. It seems like a new chapter in an unfolding and evolving life that is as interesting as we decide to make it.  There are a myriad of choices in the menu of opportunities and we are fortunate to enjoy good health and sufficient resources to make the most of each and every day.

I believe that among the many positive contributions to life at this stage is the freedom from stress and worry and taking whatever steps are necessary to address those issues when they do occur.  Our extended family is mostly in good shape with one remaining parent who decided, at 101, to move into a life care retirement community and she celebrated her 102nd birthday in January.  Our seven children and thirteen grandchildren are scattered coast to coast.  The adults are gainfully employed, financially independent and we are very proud of their achievements and accomplishments.

These later years are rich with occasions to celebrate life, the benefits of freedom and time to enjoy it in many different venues. Un enorme gracias, mi amigos. 

Sunday, 4 October 2015


Like Thoreau and Bill Bryson, I took myself into the woods today, mostly for a walk up and down the hills, for the clear, cool air, the views of the distant mountains and landscapes.  There is nothing quite like a walk among the trees, the juniper, piƱon, aspen and ponderosas around here. They seem like welcoming friends along the trail, friends who over the years have shown the way, the path ahead well marked.  Sometimes the path is not marked so clearly and there appear to be choices as to whether to go this way or that.  Or as the recently departed Yogi Berra is said to have declared,    “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
The hills themselves are gentle, forgiving, not so mountainous as to challenge these muscles, tendons and joints beyond what is reasonable and realistic.  As for breathing, blood has about 90% of its normal level of oxygen at 10,000 feet and that makes for a little more difficulty, especially for those of us in the upper age levels, even if reasonably healthy and in generally good condition.   The air begins to get a little thinner around 5000 feet and at 7500 it’s noticeable climbing up.  Fortunately it’s not a big issue. Besides, the hills and the contours of the surrounding land add another level of natural beauty worth regarding.
The surface of the trails varies from smooth and hard to small stones and rocks and with so many turns and switchbacks, it’s important to watch carefully where you place the next step.  It’s easier and safer to stop and take in the views than it is to be looking off into the distance while still walking at a regular pace.
We have a small check list and prepare for the weather accordingly.  Starting out layered, then, as body heat is generated, it’s easy to shed something and tuck it away into the back pack which carries the water bottles, maps, snack bars, water dish for the dog, and some miscellany for personal preferences.  The smart phones have compasses and if you want, apps for measuring distance, heart rate, and a host of other functions.  Why we are recently so concerned about so much escapes me most of the time.  There’s probably an app for that too.
The peaceful environment, being immersed in the natural world, and in a place of beauty and serenity, fills me with gratitude for the opportunity of being here in this place at this time.  The colors of the sky, the shapes of the clouds, the breeze and the sun add to an ideal day of this walk in the woods among the trees and hills and I am at home.

Thursday, 1 October 2015


Assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients.  That is, after all, the case.”    Annie Dillard, On Writing, p. 68
At age 41 I had an epiphany about my own mortality. I was leaving my office, driving through a parking lot toward the main street.  I had to stop the car as I had an overwhelming sense of something that I can only call a revelation.  It was as if the world opened up to say “Here is something big.  Pay attention!”  The message was this: “I did not need to fear my own death.  It will come in its own due course.  Others you have known have died and others you know and love will also die but you are now free to live without any worry about when or how you might die.”  I sat there in stunned silence wondering why me, why now, why here?   The other question was all right, what am I to make of that?  Was this a classic mid-life opportunity rather than a crisis?  I am now in my 79th year and living well, at least for now.
I was not aware that I had any deep concern about dying but in there somewhere must have been a residue of wondering, even if out of simple curiosity.  Part of my professional training had included some work in pastoral care and helping others through various life transitions, including dying and death. Being with those people and their families gave me some insight into how we as a culture and society avoided the topic most of the time.  That in itself was fascinating since it’s an experience everyone faces, usually more than once.  I have taken the position that whatever you can’t talk about will come up and bite you in the backside.
My interest in death and dying may stem from early experiences, first with animals and then from watching the adults around me deal with death.  The first death I recall in my own family was my paternal grandmother.  When she died, rather suddenly, I was about 12 years old.  I recall the farmhouse being prepared for a “viewing.”  I did not like the term then and still don’t, but I understand that it may fulfill a need on the part of the immediate family.  My thought then was that my grandmother, lying there, as if she were asleep, had no interest in being stared at by all these people.
The casket was placed in the formal dining room, people came to “pay their respects” and spoke softly in hushed voices as if a normal conversation might be disrespectful.  I couldn’t figure that out.  These practices of viewing the dead vary from culture to culture, often depending on religious traditions and practices.  A viewing (or wake as it is sometimes called) can be for one day or up to three days.  A visitation might just include the immediate family without any public display of the dead body. 
The morning of the funeral 40 to 50 people gathered in the dining room and sat in chairs facing the casket.  I remember my grandfather walking up to the casket and when he was coming back to his seat, I could see that he was crying.  It was the first and only time I saw him with tears in his eyes except when he laughed so hard he cried.  Then the entire group followed the hearse to the church for the service, then to the little cemetery in the country where both my parents and their families are buried.  I have no interest in taking any real estate for my remains and have made that known to my family.
There are enormous differences between a sudden death that is unexpected and one that comes following some illness or disease.  In either case the issues are loss and grief for the “survivors” and coming to terms with living, not dying.  Woody Allen is famous for saying “I am not afraid of death.  I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”    We know intellectually that life can change directions quickly.  We know that life is unpredictable, uncertain, fragile and precious.  We know death is certain, that every living person experiences it and yet we go to extraordinary lengths to avoid it.   We have, until more recently, even avoided having open and honest conversations about death and dying.
Of the 2.5 million deaths in the U.S. in 2012, approximately 175,000 were in the “unnatural” category; 122,000 deaths by accident, 38,200 by suicide and 14,600 by homicide.  Yet accidents ranked as the 5th leading cause of death and suicide 10th.   Numbers can be misleading because over 1.4 million deaths ranked ahead of accidents as a cause of death and these were from heart, cancer, and other diseases.  
The point here is not to draw any conclusions from the aggregated data but to understand that each one of these deaths is personal, regardless of the cause.  Every person faces death, whether you are the dying person or you are among those closest to that person.  And whether the death is anticipated or sudden, it must be dealt with one way or another.
One of my favorite stories is Appointment in Samarra” as re-told by W. Somerset Maugham in 1933. It is an interesting commentary on how some  think they might escape death, even if for awhile.  Death is the speaker.
   “There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me.  She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate.  I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.  The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.  Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, 'Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?’  That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise.  I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”

There is a tremendous amount of literature on death and dying, some from the medical community that deals with death on a daily basis one way or another; other treatises from writers and poets who try and soften the emotional traumas associated with the inevitable end of life; and only recently have people begun to focus on the choices available not only in the manner they wish to die but how they wish to live.

The medical community seems to be shifting its attitude from one of trying to keep people alive regardless of the physical, emotional and economic costs toward a more humane approach.  Hospice has made its positive presence felt among those families trying to help loved ones live out their last days with more dignity and comfort and several states, Oregon being a pioneer, have laws permitting people to die with dignity.

How each family deals with the loss of a loved one varies greatly. How we are prepared ahead of time will in some measure determine our ability to plan for, accept and embrace the final chapter.  There are now more resources available than ever before. If you or a member of your family are in one of those terminal but uncertain conditions, you can take control. With the help and support from others who have the experience to walk through this valley of the shadow without fear you can have the hope of as good an end as humanly possible.