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Poems men should know part 8 – Desiderata – Words for Life

“Desiderata” (Latin: “desired things”) is a 1927 poem by American writer Max Ehrmann. the poem was largely unknown in the author’s lifetime. He died in 1945. Why do I know this poem? Strangely, because a friend played me a recording of none other that former boxer Chris Eubank narrating the poem. I thought it was lovely. Here are some words to carry with you throughout your life.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

– Max Ehrmann,American writer, poet, and attorney (September 26, 1872 – September 9, 1945)

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The only way to stay ahead is to learn how to learn

My wife sent this quote to me today. I think I’ll save it here as a reminder of the importance of learning as THE key skill that we all need to posses these days.

Idea of the Day: “In an uncertain and changing world, there is still a competitive advantage to being human,” writes Kellogg School of Management CIO Betsy Ziegler. One key way to stay ahead? Learn how to learn.

“Often students believe that once they cross the graduation stage, they are done – they have reached the finish line. In today’s world this is an impossible end point – they can not stand still, they must have the confidence and persistence to assess their skills, understand their gaps and seek help in closing them.”

Reflections on what you need to be successful

I would highly recommend anyone watch this video.

This is Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com giving a lecture to students at his old University, London School of Economics.

This is of course useful for people starting out on their career journeys but I think it’s also worth a watch for those people already well into their career. Why? Because it’s worth reflecting on what (career) success is and what is required to achieve it.

Lewis suggests that there are 4 things you need to be successful:

  1. Talent
  2. Hard work
  3. Focus
  4. Luck

I think that intuitively we all know this but sometimes we don’t give luck the attention it deserves. Whether I think of myself as being successful in my career or not, if I examine it, I can certainly attribute a certain amount of luck to all of the professional roles I’ve ever had. In fact, more often than not it was luck and not talent that got me in the door.

Of course once inside, there was never any getting around the fact that hard work and focus really are the key attributes of success. We all know talented people who’ve never quite lived up to their potential. And we also know people who have exceeded all of the expectations of those around them. Why? Because they were willing to work hard.


On the subject of working 90 hours a week I think it’s important to point out that the speaker in this video is referring to a business that he was growing. He very much had a personal interest in the business and I suspect was engergised when he could see the correlation between his effort and the success of his business.

I’m less convinced about long hours for those treading well work career paths – lawyers, bankers, doctors etc. Why? Because unless this path is a vocation, I question how effective you can be when working over a certain number of hours.

There may very well be times when you just need to put your shoulder to the wheel in the short term but this kind of lifestyle isn’t sustainable long term. It also doesn’t afford you with time to recuperate, recharge and stay effective in the long term. Steven Covey called this ‘sharpening the saw’, the idea of balancing your resources, energy and health to create a sustainable lifestyle. Such an approach will leave room for reading, reflection and creative thinking which can be useful in accelerating ones’ career rather than getting busy being busy.

In fact, in an era of exponential technological change, our ability to think creatively, that most human of abilities may be the only thing that empowers us to maintain a sustainable career. To think creatively requires time and space.

By the way, there is research that suggets that productivity – output per working hour – improves with shorter working hours. Across the world’s richest countries, higher productivity correlates with lower working hours (see also OECD data).

Some of this is of course subjective and can depend on the individual. I for one can vouch that the amount of time it takes me to complete a task correlates directly with the amount of time I have available. In other words, even for minor projects, if I have lots of time available, the project will expand to fill the time rather leaving me with spare time to sip pina coladas. But that’s just me.

Final note, Ford’s original workers were found less productive working more than 40 hours a week, a situation likely to be even more the case for people who work with knowledge rather manually – who ever had their best ideas when they were exhausted?

Enjoy the video.

Career advice and strategic life long learning

It’s that time of year when students at Dublin City University are wrapping up dissertations and practicum projects. Many of them have already secured positions while others are looking forward to a few weeks off before getting stuck into the job hunt.

Despite reaching the end of their current university experience, there’s no doubt that they will return to learning in some form in the future. They’ll have to. The pace of technological and industrial change is so great that they can’t rely on their Masters Degrees to keep them employed for the next 40 years.

To say that we live in a changing world understates the pace and the scope of this change. Huge amounts of what students learned this year may be obsolete a decade from now when they will be working in jobs that haven’t been created yet. In fact, some of the most in-demand and jobs today didn’t exist 20 years ago. Think about the number of roles that fall within the realm of digital marketing for a start.

In the face of change, today’s graduates will need to be able to continue learning, unlearning and relearning new knowledge and skills to remain adaptable and employable. To reject such a proposition will leave you in a tough spot and some forced learning, like how to live on a minimum wage.

I’m being facetious but the point stands. When it comes to responding to change, graduates will need to continue their learning journey, at the very least by acknowledging that what it means to be competent today, may not be the same as what it means to be competent tomorrow. Unfortunately, we live in a time where what it means to be competent is changing all of the time.

Great career advice

Being open to life long learning shouldn’t conjure up images of all nighters poring over books in the library. Learning doesn’t have to be in the classroom. We can acquire learning at work, from friends and colleagues, listening to podcasts and choosing some strategically useful books to read in between Jack Reacher novels!

A friend and mentor Alan Gleeson recently shared with me a photocopy of a page from the Tim Ferris book Tools of Titans which had some of the best career advice I’ve ever read. On the subject of how to direct our learning intent, Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, had the following to say:

‘If you want an average, successful life, it doesn’t take much planning. Just stay out of trouble, go to school, and apply for jobs you might like. But if you want something extraordinary, you have two paths: 1) Become the best at one specific thing 2) Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.

The first strategy is difficult to the point of near impossibility. Few people will ever play in the NBA or make a platinum album. I don’t recommend anyone even try.

The second strategy is fairly easy. Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort. In my case, I can draw better then most people, but I’m hardly an artist. And I’m not any funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I’m funnier than most people. The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It’s the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare. And when you add in my business background, suddenly I had a topic that few cartoonists could hope to understand without living it.

I always advise people to become good public speakers (top 25%). Anyone can do it with practice. If you add that talent to any other, suddenly you’re the boss of the people who only have one skill. Or get a degree in business on top of your engineering degree, law degree, medical degree, science degree, or whatever. Suddenly you’re in charge, or maybe you’re starting your own company using your combined knowledge.

Capitalism rewards things that are both rare and valuable. You make yourself rare by combining two or more ‘pretty goods’ until no-one else has your mix. At least one of the skills in your mixture should involve communication, either written or verbal. And it could be as simple as learning how to sell more effectively than 75% of the world. That’s one. Now add that to whatever your passion is, and you have two.’

This is sound advice indeed.

For my own part, while I’m not a recent graduate, I value learning and regularly take the opportunity to remind friends and colleagues of the value of life long learning. If we don’t I jest, we may find ourselves in the same position as the telephone exchange operator!

Telephone exchange operator

Another very worthy piece of advice was given to me by my old mentor Professor Theo Lynn at Dublin City University – “always be the hardest working person in the room”. This is something that I’m still working on.

Poems men should know part 6 – A Psalm of Life, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807 – 1882

What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
“Life is but an empty dream!”
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
“Dust thou art, to dust returnest,”
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Finds us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,–act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing
Learn to labor and to wait.

Nice quote for the day that’s in it…..

“Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.”
― Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms

Summary of a great book called Drive by Dan Pink

Nice quote on reading books………….

“The failure to read good books both enfeebles the vision and strengthens our most fatal tendency — the belief that the here and now is all there is.”
Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind

Great video: Dr. Randy Pausch, the Last Lecture, Achieving your Childhood Dreams

I’ve watched this video before and can highly recommend the book, but if you have time over the next few days, this video is incredibly moving and inspirational. There is a lot of wisdom here, particularly at this time of the year as we reflect on how are life is proceeding and make plans and resolutions for the New Year ahead. Happy New Year 🙂


 

Tim Minchin shares his tips on life……

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