Giving as a sure path of self-fulfillment.

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“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”
English Writer Samuel Johnson

It never ceases to amaze me how, in these few last years, social science has backed up (or thrown overboard) long believed assumptions about so many aspects of our lives: in the personal or professional realm. Giving—as in giving your energy, attention, help, support, time or resources—has long been highly considered as a trait worth cultivating. We’ve known, well… sort of known, that it is the right thing to do. But we’ve never actually proven the extent of the impact it may have on us and our social circles.

So, here it is when Professor and writer Adam Grant comes to tell us that in a world of Givers, Matchers and Takers, the Givers are the ones who can be most successful in the long term or most miserable in the short term when certain relational factors are undermined. Those are the factors that determine the act of giving (and ultimately, our success), and the ones he develops in this revealing book, not only through massive research but also through several, great examples of people in business, politics, sports or education.

“In the mind of a giver, the definition of success itself takes on a distinctive meaning. Whereas takers view success as attaining results that are superior to others’ and matchers see success in terms of balancing individual accomplishments with fairness to others, givers characterize success as individual achievements that have a positive impact on others. They see success in terms of making significant, lasting contributions to a broad range of people.”

Adam Grant’s work certainly changes the way we see our reciprocity styles and those of others, and it may help you make smarter decisions in reference to relationships in order to make you feel in stronger spirits.

As it is quoted and reminded in the book:
“It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.”
John A. Holmes

Wish you all an insightful reading and generous connections!

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Mobilizing Language

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Some time ago, I felt compelled to read Martin Gilbert’s The power of words (2012) when I was searching for material to read about Sir Winston Churchill. It’s no easy job to pick something to make a start on Churchill’s remarkable life, since the amount of reading material is overwhelming. His very own published work is also massive, something I did not dare grab yet.

 
Historian Martin Gilbert recounts Mr. Churchill’s life within the framework of his speeches and writings in a “brief” 536-page work, considering such an accomplished figure. At a personal level, this book was a great choice to have a bird’s eye view on his whole life. But most importantly, to understand the weight his words and convictions had on the fate of a nation, a continent and why not on the world. (Churchill was a Literature Nobel Prize Laureate in 1953)

 
The destiny of mankind is not decided by material computation when the great causes are on the move in the world, stirring all men’s souls, drawing them from their fire sides, casting aside comfort, wealth and the persuit of happiness in response to impulses at once awestriking and irresistible, we learn that we are spirits, not animals and that something is going on in space and time which whether we like it or not, spells duty.”    June 16, 1941 broadcast from Central War Room to the US in his acceptance speech for an honorary degree from the University of Rochester in New York State.

 
In a world that hardly resembles the one we are living today, the value of his leadership through the hardest moments of modern civilization remains a timeless lesson. In that line, the newly released movie The darkest hour does accomplish to demonstrate the impact he had on people’s spirits at the very start of the WWII ordeal. It sheds light on his way with words and also on his most humane side.

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He mobilized the English language and sent it to battleApril 1963 – Although President John F. Kennedy used this powerful metaphor when presenting Churchill with honorary citizenship of the US, it was actually coined by American journalist, Edward R. Murrow. (Source: winstonchurchill.org)

 

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Gary Oldman brought Churchill back to life in the movie Darkest Hour (2017) for us to ponder over his way of leading a fight against a relentless tyranny.

Wish you insightful readings and inspiring connections!

When the book of the moment is a good old one.

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You know how the subject matter of cool conversation varies with time, right? For quite a while, one of those topics has been about series from on demand online services. Many memorable productions have been brought to life with fantastic performances on a wide array of themes.

The handmaid’s tale is one of those newly released series that would engage you in a debate with other viewers. However, to me, the most interesting aspect of it all, comes from the fact that the series is based on a book published more than 30 years ago by the outstanding Margaret Atwood. Being a prolific poet and novelist, (she’s also written for children) her work is distinctively refined. Knowing that new generations (and why not older ones) have the chance of rediscovering Atwood’s work through the boost of a “TV” series is a sure great thing.

And this is not an issue about discussing later whether you liked the book or the “movie” better. Those types of discussions miss the real point of an artistic expression: enjoying a well crafted story on controversial and socially relevant themes that is so imaginatively told, that you live through the anguish of the characters in a shared tragedy of a torn community. And as if that were not enough, it should have the effect of warning us on the potential dangers of tiny human minds on key positions of power. (Mind you dear reader, this latter thought goes for the book because I haven’t seen the series…yet)

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Ant Carver’s street mural. You can see more of this English artist at: http://www.antcarver.com

 

As women play a sadly important role in Atwood’s novel, I decided to illustrate this post with this profound female look.

Wish you an insightful reading!

When real and magic have watery borders

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Magic Rain by Mariana Stauffer. Click here for more on this artist.

 

At dawn on Thursday the smell stops, the sense of distance was lost. The notion of time, upset since the day before, disappeared completely. Then, there was no Thursday. What should have been Thursday was a physical, jellylike thing that could have been parted with the hands in order to look into Friday.”

When the weather plays tricks on our senses, I always go back to the moment I read Monologue of Isabel watching it rain in Macondo by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  A masterful story about (and for) dreadful weather.

Here’s the complete story.

Wish you an insightful and cozy reading for these rainy, wet and sunless days!

Don’t judge a book by its title.

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This is a book that might very well be misinterpreted by its title. As I did on my previous post, I insist on the fact of always, reading from beginning to end. This concise and illustrated work: Steal like an artist by Austin Kleon is quite original in the way to see the process of creativity.

“It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.

Kleon basically encourages us all not to be afraid to imitate when we truly admire somebody’s creations. He claims a lot has been done already, so if you expect to do something original from the beginning, you’ll never take off. You always start by existing work (from writers, painters, athletes, any professional in any area you can think of.) You begin by admiring their art, imitating their tactics or techniques and as you go through that journey, you’ll start discovering your flaws, your strengths, your needs. In other words, your original work will emerge from that search.

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The arena of the sun (1954) Oil painting by Princess Fahrelnissa Zeid

 

Copy your heroes. Examine where you fall short. What’s in there that makes you different? That’s what you should amplify and transform into your work.”

You’ll get practical advice on diverse areas ranging from finding a place and a routine that suits you in order to organize and boost your energies, to down-to-earth financial tips that come really handy when fear starts taking over.

I wish you an insightful reading!

Always, always, read the whole book.

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Very slowly, as in a movie process of fading out, when I read, the world disappears. I remain alone inside the world of the story. It is my favorite feeling in this life.”

This is Haruki Murakami’s way of describing something that is very identifiable when we experience it, though it is hard to put in words and to rationalize: optimal experience.

The joy we get from living, ultimately depends directly on how the mind filters and interprets everyday experiences. Whether we are happy depends on inner harmony, not on the controls we are able to exert over the great forces of the universe. (…) 

Since I first heard about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience I’ve read dozens of articles about him, his investigation, and his ground-breaking findings. However, I had never read his book. Big mistake. His conclusions are nothing short than a before and after in the way we pursue our well being through experience. By just reading articles about his work, I had just accessed to a tiny bit of this masterpiece and not to the first-hand experience of one of the most essential books of our times.

 

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The secret is not to reach the destination, it is to lose ourselves on our way there.

Wish you a great reading and better connections!

PS: you will have hundreds of summaries of  Csikszentmihalyi’s ideas online, but if you have the chance, trust me, don’t miss this book.

 

 

The art of knowing how to live.

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Oil painting. Rain’s Rustle by por Leonid Afremov

 

Having a life and living it adequately can be considered quite a miracle if we see it in perspective. Having the freedom to choose is an exclusive humanly privilege that is not always used appropriately.

A few days ago, when a difficult something at work came up–those situations that are hard to solve and are generally solved incorrectly because they take time, effort and thinking— I remembered with admiration the book by Fernando Savater, Amador. I definitely confirmed that it is an essential for those who wish to pursue a better living.

“As opposed to other living beings or inanimate ones, humans are able to choose their way of life. We can embrace what we consider correct (…). Therefore, it seems sensible to watch carefully what we do and make sure we acquire a certain know-how in terms of living that allow us to get things right. It is to that knowing-how or art of living that we call Ethics.”

Although it is labeled as a work for youngsters as it was written in the format of a letter for the writer’s son, Amador as a representative of a generation of adolescents, it is, I believe a book for anyone wishing to reflect on his or her ways in life.

“Ethics is nothing less than the rational attempt to find out how to live in a better way. If it is worth getting interested in Ethics, it is because we like the good life.”

 

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I wish you an insightful reading!

From theory to practice: vision, beliefs, and the stamina to carry them out.

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When it comes to educating for more efficient results, there is and there has been a lot of talk on what “should be”; however, it seems that we all somehow know what needs some to be achieved: children with excellent academic skills, prepared to enter in a competitive world and who happen to enjoy going to classes and learn.

The school with those characteristics exists. At least there’s one we know about because it has become an international phenomenon and it has a well thought out structure of self promotion. The Ron Clark Academy is a model school who enrolls mostly disadvantaged children and transforms them into top-notch students. The recipe? A staff of talented, committed teachers, academic rigor, strict discipline rules known and agreed, high involvement of parents and unconventional, fun methodology that includes creating songs and choreographies with mathematical concepts, field trips that include other countries and high profile debates among many others.

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New Minds

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Almost Home. Oil painting by Donald Zolan 

Take a second to make a mental picture of this:

2029- Huge excitement at home and at school. Great expectations. Graduation year for first graders 2017.

Big challenge ahead.
For them, and for us.

Especially, for us.

For us: the generation in between generations who witnessed the demise of the Industrial era as we were growing, and adapted pretty quickly to an Information Age that has offered endless possibilities, but has also cornered us to some of our humanly boundaries.

However, almost stifled by the new world of data, we were able to perceive it was not going to last too long. Because we are used to changes now. We expect changes. Those big ones, in which you find yourself in the situation of looking back in time and finding hard to see yourself in a before kind of life.

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Word by word with Anne Lamott.

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Somehow during the past months I kept coming across the name of Anne Lamott cited by some authors in reference to the elusive art of writing. Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life, is an honest, moving and sometimes funny account on how you can decide to live your life by accepting and welcoming your vulnerability and being open to tell the story about it.

“Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up, to grow and belong.”

“…good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are.”

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