Imagine you are driving your car on a road for hours and haven’t seen any car for hours and your GPS, or whatever app you use, shows the nearest gas station is several driving hours far in any direction – you are literally in the middle of nowhere. Then you get a flat Tyre. You stop and open your trunk. You don’t have a jack.
Sunset is approaching quickly, you lock your car and start walking. After around 2 hours, you spot a house. Walking towards the house you start thinking – how should I approach the house? do they have a hostile dog? What if the people living there are not friendly? Will they help me or attack me? All those doubts and negative thoughts keep hammering your head; you feel uneasy and scared, but you carry on.
You get to the house, knock on the door. Someone opens the door with a surprising but very sweet smile. You explain what happened and the person not only has a jack but invite you for a bowl of soup, drives you back, helps you changing the tyre and you follow your journey…
Does it resonate with you? These are the negative thoughts which come to drain confidence, create doubts and prevent you from reaching your goals!
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve spent some time working with a regular client. They are an innovative and creative mid-sized company based over three countries.
While the training was very much focused on how they engage with their clients, one thing in particular struck me about what a great company they are. the range of people on the course.
The small group consisted of one person with “Executive” at the end of their job title, who had been in the organisation for ten months, as well as someone with “C” at the beginning of the theirs and who had been there for many years.
While the training wasn’t designed for a specific management level, I was surprised when I learned how senior that one participant was. The training itself was incredibly successful and the dynamics within the group open, free and courageous. The C-level employee told me how she had pushed to get on the course. She was trying to balance her desire to learn and improve while not taking a valuable place on a small and intensive learning experience really aimed at lower levels.
There are books, poems and articles that stay with you throughout your adult life. In my case I can cite one of each and recall the person – in all cases A family member – who originally brought them to my attention. When I look back I realise these were the people that influenced me in my early years. They set me on a path in pursuit of happiness and success.
A Book. As far as books go for me it has been ‘How to Win Friends & Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie that set me on my path. I have a 1977 paperback edition. The subtitle on the front cover says: ‘The phenomenal bestseller that is helping millions find success and happiness’. It’s well used, marked up with pencil and has post-it notes sticking out to draw me back to things I must have thought were important to me in the 1970s and beyond. I was introduced to this book by my late father-in-law Ken Smith. What’s even more exciting for me is that I now have Ken’s 1936 hardback imprint of the same book. And it has his pencil marks ups, which give me a great insight to what was important to him in the 1940s and 50s as he started out on his path to happiness and success in his life and in his career. The inside front cover of Ken’s book quotes Carnegie’s ‘Twelve things this book will help you achieve‘.
A Poem. The poem that influenced me was ‘If‘ by Rudyard Kipling which my mother Peggy sent me in 1968 when I had left home to go to University. I believe at that time she was offering me a pattern for my future life.
An Article. We have to wait until the new millennium for the article that has influenced both my wife and I ever since that time. It was my father-in-law Ken again who sent us a clipping from The Sunday Times of 30 January 2000 entitled ‘How to be Happy’. It was an article by Gyles Brandreth in which he interviewed the eminent Irish psychiatrist Dr Anthony Clare who offered his seven point plan for happiness. We have followed Dr Clare’s prescription ever since. And just last month my wife Sue introduced me to a new article in the Independent about a ten year research programme by ‘Happiness Expert’ Eric Barker. In the article the Indy’s lifestyle writer Kashmira Gander summarises “Eric Barker has spent almost a decade uncovering why some people seem more happy and successful than others, but his findings don’t always make for comfortable reading“.
There is a surprising fourth source of inspiration from a family member – a Document of State – but more of that later!
What can we learn about the Pursuit of Happiness and Successfrom these publications?
It’s that time of year when a good proportion of the population works itself into a state of agitation. It’s school and university exam season; time to judge the learning you’ve learned. I guess almost every reader of this blog will have taken an exam at some time and/or shepherded their son(s) or daughter(s) through doing so. They will have a broad array of memories about the experience. Does our collective recollection indicate we were affected by the same degree of anxiety that seems to prevail today? Or, is this one of those situations glimpsed in the rear-view mirror that appears smaller than it really is? Were we scared, short of sleep and forgot the single most important coaching line ever uttered, “Read the [insert appropriate profanity] question”?
However, is there a deeper, more important question to pose at this time? That is, “Is our approach to education fit for purpose?” Have we forgotten what makes sound pedagogy; what represents real learning as opposed to mere information transfer, which like water finds its own course in and immediately out of someone’s head?