Can we enter the promised land, or will we always be slaves?

My trip to Jordan this week challenged me to see the Middle East from a new perspective. I understood how Moses felt when he saw the promised land and wasn’t allowed in. In truth if any of you saw the pictures, I actually doubt Moses felt as good as I did (I’m not sure he had an infinity pool when he had that view!!).

From Fathis’s perspective, my guide at Mount Sinai was simply wrong when he thought that was where the 10 Commandments were passed down. And remember Jericho? “Where the walls came tumbling down”. Well I have now had the opportunity to visit it twice, in wholly different locations. You can probably see where I’m coming from.

The story goes (in this part of town at least) that when the Israelites fled slavery they came through here. So as I grappled with the thought of an Arab nation that was so clearly active in its support of western intervention in Syria and Iraq, I thought more about freedom, and what it means to me and us as a society, than the politics of the day.

Strange to wander a city at night and see only a handful of women amongst hundreds of men. Fortunately my hotel spared me the grotesque display of the only women being those offering themselves for rent. And it’s common here apparent, It felt odd to breakfast with the only women present being in service. Until I spotted an older Asian lady seated at the back. She had clearly avoided servitude, whether in her lifetime or previously. The vicious way she humiliated the staff made it clear to me that she was buying into an illusion of difference in who we really are as human beings. The same illusion that has allowed Israelites, Africans, Irish, Asians and others be enslaved across time.

As I reflected, remembering Tess, my aunties maid in Singapore, who’s eyes would well as she spoke of her lost children, I allowed myself to feel a deep upset for the seeming injustice of it all. And I thought of Moses and his journey from slavery to prince-hood to leadership of a people, that ended with just a glimpse of what was possible.

Had he have entered Jerusalem, Moses would have found what we still find there today. Chaos and contrast, wonder, and war. Maybe to die with faith in the future was a gift rather than a curse?

As Maria cleared away my plate, we exchanged words, with warm smiles and a connection that went beyond meaning. In that stolen moment, neither of us were slaves, or the ancestors of slaves.

In that moment we were, as we all our, human beings, joined by our humanity, our care, and our love. And while I will no doubt spend most of my life wrapped in the kind of mixed up thinking that pretends barriers create security, I hope I will carry on finding glimpses of truth. Of love. And of connection.

I am not making a political point and I know that boundaries can protect us. But the glimpse that Moses’s life was pointing us to was of the real truth, the real milk and honey. It wasn’t in the material. Fortunately.

Because despite our physical form, and material reality, we can still glimpse it every day.

If we only know which direction to look.



What I learnt from my fasting from Facebook

A couple of months back, deeply troubled by late night facebook sessions grappling with the woes of the war in Gaza, I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone. I realised that trawling through posts, dipping in and out of polarised opinions about a reality far from home, and far from most of our real experience, was taking its toll. I was scared and upset, and far from social media helping me be connected, it was tearing me apart.

At the height of my madness I had dipped into a post from a man I deeply respect, and started an online row with a man I didn’t know. It ended badly (sorry Connor). I believe he was a good man, but the words that we exchanged weren’t.

So I stayed away, and pulled off Twitter and LinkedIn as part of an experiment to see what I would miss. While it was hardly scientific, I did get some results, and they surprised me a little.

Now I’m back I know what I missed.

I like hearing stories of my friends lives, I like seeing inspiring quotes from insightful masters (and mistresses!). I love seeing pictures of other people gorgeous children, I can feel the pride and joy seeping through the web and infecting my spirit.

I enjoy seeing my friends boasting of their latest holidays, and hats, and homes, and social triumphs. I enjoy being connected to the small woes that befall us all, and the supportive comments that weave us together and enable connection without commitment. I enjoy some inanity, and some idiosyncrasy, and lots of idiocy. I enjoy supporting causes and conspiracies, and eves-dropping on craziness.

I’m not too keen on stories of woe, especially when posted from afar and reposted to the point of a thousand likes. I’m not keen on bigotry in any form, and I get upset when friends become angry with each other and fracture fuses through the frantic re-posts. I don’t like arguments about who is right in a war where all sides are wrong, and I am not too keen on videos of cats either.

What I have realised though is that I have a choice what I see, and what I don’t. I get a choice to read, or rewind, or review. So when I felt a deep nasty feeling inside when I watched a man being abused on a train yesterday, I knew I didn’t need to be there, and so off I went.

I am not asking anyone to change what they post, I am just realising that if I am selective I can get the best of what I love, without any of what I don’t.

Thanks for being my friends and my family,  it is a privilege to share some of my life with you.



How to listen to what your partner is really saying

Kids were late for school on Tuesday, my fault, and I made our new schoolrun rota pal late too. Now I realise my error, but when I grabbed my phone from my son while doing a 3 point turn, to look at the map, I was cursing Jools. I had done her a favour, and she returned it by giving me duff directions. “There isn’t a turning on the left before the main road……..” I wont repeat the rest, fortunately the traffic chaos I was causing drowned it out to my little crew.

Actually she was right, their road is on the left before the main road, just a different main road than in my mind. She was driving a different way down the street in her head, and if I had really been listening, I would have been looking in the right direction too.

Made me think about the practice we have been trying in our household since meeting Alan Sharland, a conflict coach, mediator, and all round insightful guy. He taught me a practice called Co-Active listening and it’s pretty simple, and has the capacity to cause remarkable understanding and insight.

To practice it you chose a topic – “why Ziggy do you feel its unfair that you go to bed at the same time as your sister?”. And then you listen. Really listen. And to make sure you are listening, you then repeat back what they have said, just adding something like “did I get it all?” at the end. And usually you didn’t, so they clarify, and you repeat, until you really know you get it.

In practice, you may give each person a set time (say 3 mins), then you repeat, and then you reverse the process. The understanding you get from it is outstanding, but nothing beats the feeling you get when on the receiving end, when you know that the other person is really listening, just listening to check they understand, rather than anything else.

And in practice, not as an exercise, you can use it everywhere. My children light up when they realise I am really listening. And so do I.

You can find out more on Alans website, or if you mail me, I’ll send you a short one pager that describes the process.

Enjoy the listening.




41% of training budgets wasted in 2013

Effective training can lead to significant benefits and bottom-line improvements for businesses. But our survey revealed that a significant proportion of training programmes in 2013 failed to deliver against their requirements. To make matters worse, over a quarter of companies surveyed were not formally measuring the results of their training at all!

It is therefore no surprise that many firms were reducing their training budgets by an average of 12% in 2013 [1] and possibly by even more in 2014.

But how do you get the most out of your training? Well, our research highlighted that it’s often a mixed approach that is most engaging, reinforced with clear goal-setting, homework and ongoing support from line managers.

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Body, Mind and Spirit…and Productivity

Time management training is sometimes approached in a purely cerebral way with extensive flow diagrams and theories discussed at length. We have however seen this type of business training fail again and again to translate into lasting change. Better time management courses like Getting Things Done also stress practical implementation in their training. We would go one step further and suggest that the whole person needs to be considered, not just technology and systems but also culture, emotions and the body. In this article Mark Walsh addresses some of these more unusual aspects of productivity. (Mark leads workshops for Think Productive, a partner of Inspire’s who specialise in this perspective).

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