Thursday, August 28, 2008

10 Ways History’s Finest Kept Their Focus at Work

10 Ways History’s Finest Kept Their Focus at Work
• Posted by glen on March 26th, 2008

Post written by Albert van Zyl from the blog HeadSpace.
The lives of great people give us interesting clues about how to organise our days.
All of them attached great value to their daily routines. This is because they saw it as being part of ‘becoming who they are’, as Nietzsche puts it.
For the same reason they were also highly individual in their routines. They had the courage to go against popular opinion and work out often strange daily plans that suited them.
This is perhaps the first lesson that we can learn – that it takes courage and resolve to design and stick to a routine that suits you. But as Emerson reassures us: ‘The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going’.
There are at least 10 other lessons that the daily routines of the great can teach us:

1. Don’t work long hours
Despite the modern obsession with physical presence at offices (also known as ‘presenteeism’), very few of the great worked long hours.
Philosopher Michel Foucault would only work from 9am to 3pm. Beethoven only worked from sunrise until the early afternoon. No 12 hour days here. Author Tom Robbins schedules only 3 hours of writing at his desk per day.

2. Take breaks
Even during these short days, the great took plenty of breaks.
Socrates would sometimes simply stop and hold completely still for several minutes. Beethoven was known to punctuate his mornings by running outside and walking around – he called it ‘working while walking’.

3. Take even longer breaks
The great all spent a single long period away from their desks every day to give their minds time to recover and regain its creative poise.
Beethoven started work at daybreak, but wrapped up by two or three in the afternoon which left him a good 14 hours away from work. Victor Hugo wrote in the mornings and took afternoons off entirely. Churchill would do nothing work-related between noon and around 11 at night.

4. Stop work and sit down for meals
Churchill would even have a bath and dress for meals. For us mere mortals, this injunction could simply mean sitting down with your sandwich away from you desk, on a bench in the park or somewhere else. Or resolving to chew and taste your food properly.

5. Don’t work in the afternoons
There are some exceptions, but very few of our heroes did any serious work in the afternoon.
After writing in the morning, Victor Hugo spent his afternoons riding around Paris in double decker busses, watching his brethren about their work. For us this might mean blocking off afternoons for long tea breaks and non-essential tasks.

6. Mix it up
The days of the great contain a surprising variety of activities. It seems that we don’t have to focus on a small range of things to succeed.
Even the grim German philosopher, Immanuel Kant went for afternoon walks and sat down for lunch with friends each day. Gandhi walked, spun, had a long bath and massage.
Churchill painted, fed his fish, played card games and constructed buildings all over Chartwell farm. He famously claimed that our minds don’t need rest as much as they need variety.

7. Aim low
Don’t schedule every minute of your day. Leo at Zenhabits suggests that we have morning and evening routines, and leave the middle of the day open for completing key tasks and other things that come up.
Daily routines are supposed to make things easier, not more complicated. Micro managing every minute of your day does not work.

8. Take time to relax
The great all reserved time to relax. And this doesn’t mean engaging in some semi-productive activity like reading a book or washing the dishes. No, they blocked out time to do nothing at all.
Gandhi would often spend time just staring at the horizon. Churchill would sit down to smoke a cigar after lunch and Beethoven would stop off for a few beers after his afternoon walk. In his recent autobiography, Alan Greenspan mentions that he too makes time to reflect each day.

9. Get up early(?)
This one is the subject of hot debate. Samuel Johnson, Churchill and Dylan Thomas got up late. Gandhi, Franklin and Mandela all got up early.
But whether they were early birds or night owls, the great all make sure that they had long periods of uninterrupted quiet time; whether late at night or early in the morning.

10. Exercise!
Al Gore interrupts his work day at 3pm to go for a run. Emerson, Beethoven, Nietzsche, Victor Hugo and Gandhi all went for walks. Nietzsche said that he ’scribbled’ notes while he took his walk and claims that some of his best thoughts came in this way.
Mandela’s 5 am walks are legendary. The story goes that he once invited a persistent journalist to interview him during this morning walk - but she ended up being too out of breath to ask any questions.
Albert’s blog provides weird, insightful and funny bits that allow you to protect and enhance your Headspace. Check it out

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Video on Happiness

Thanks to Jennifer Sellers from Inspired Mastery for sending me the link to this great 20 minute video on Happiness featuring Dan Gilbert the author of Stumbling on Happiness.

For more information on Inspired Mastery go to

Strengths Based Organization

I found this today and thought it was interesting, what do you think?

Q: Strengths-based organisation is a good principle, but who determines strengths? An individual may be falsely deluded as to their strengths, while if they rely on others to identify their strengths they may be misled. Also, what do we do with contemporary strengths which don't easily slot into the varnashram model? Say someone is an introverted logician, is he a brahmana because he is an intellectual or not because his strength is not providing leadership and counsel to others? If someone is a great organisational leader but pacifistic, does this make him a ksatriya because he is a leader or not because he is not a warrior? I'm interested to know what you think.

A: To deal with the first part of your question first. There are two things here. Strengths are strengths. Who determines them? Krishna through the agency of His apara-prakrti energy, in conjunction with activities of the living entities. Krishna is the architect of the system, the individual is the author of his destiny. Your strength profile in this life is a product of your karma.

Your understanding of your strengths, or your relative assessment of your strengths is something else. I believe your question here is essentially, How is this best determined?

Bhaktivinode Thakura has explained this nicely in one place (Ekendra knows - he posted it a year or two ago). The process he recommends is that "village elders" (mature, experienced, and sober persons intimately familiar with the examinee) should examine a person to see what social role they have the qualification to discharge, based on an examination of their character, and life history to date.

In today's developing understanding of this in the secular world (example), various types of tests are administered to help people to understand their profile. In both the business world and, actually, in the evangelical (protestant) church, the understanding of helping an individual uncover their naimittika-dharma (ref: Jaiva Dharma chapter 3) identity and act according to that is becoming better understood. I recommend "The Volunteer Revolution: Unleashing the Power of Everybody" by Pastor Bill Hybels for some good insight into this. At Saddleback church, the church pastored by Rick Warren, author of the Purpose-driven Life, they use the SHAPE model - "Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences" (ref: S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Life). The Keirsey test is another profiling test that is widely used. I've found this to be very accurate and insightful.

The capability of these tests to give insight into someone's profile, and the ability of a person to understand their own nature, is contingent on their own self-awareness. The more "emotionally intelligent" a person is, the better they can objectively understand themselves, and the more honestly and accurately they can answer the questions that these tests rely on. Many times people try to live in a projection of what they think they should be, or what they would like to be, rather than keeping it real and accepting themselves for what they are.

I'll find the conversation that I referred to in the original article and give some quotes from there, but here is the bhavanuvada commentary. Srila Prabhupada explained that the process for helping people to understand their nature was to get them to come and seriously execute the process of Krishna Consciousness for one year, and then their nature will become more apparent. I will post an excerpt from Volunteer Revolution that gives critical insight into this.

As far as the second part of your question is concerned, about individual strengths and organizational roles:

There are two things going on here. Number one, the idea of strengths-based organization. Number two, a particular organizational structure (giving rise to these particular social roles that you mention - ksatriya, brahmana, etc.). Both are inter-related. There are three things -

1. Environmental conditions
2. Needs of the individuals / needs of the collective social body
3. Capabilities of individuals

The Varnasrama organizational model lies at the intersection of these three circles. Material nature produces the individuals that are needed for the social body in the same way that material nature produces in the human body all the particular cells that are needed to fulfill the functions of the body.

It is simply a matter of recognizing what a person is, to understand what they should do. An external system of broad categorization exists in order to make the situation easier to understand. People, especially the intellectually lazy or disinclined majority, like to have labels to put on things, and boxes to put things into.

Specifically about pacifism and the ksatriya and brahamana roles: was Yuddhistira a ksatriya or a brahmana? What about Dronacarya? (See here for some discussion on this). Ultimately there is a lot of latitude in the organizational roles for individual variations, and there is also a social structure component related to gotra or biological dynasty, which helps to determine which side of the fence borderline or ambivalent cases fall on. When this biological aspect overshadows the strengths-based angle (guna-karma vibhagasah) we end up with a caste system.

Focus on understanding guna and karma. Don't worry about varna, putting a tidy label on it, at this stage. Just figure out where your strength zones lie and operate in those to realize your peak performance. The rest will fall into place around that. Do it in Krishna's service, and Daivi-varnasrama-dharma will arise naturally, because it is natural strengths-based organization.

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Strengths-based Organization: Determining Strengths
Posted On: Mon, 2007-05-07 20:48 by sitapati

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Wonder of Us

The Wonder of You

Look within and you will find
A hidden depth to yourself
Ancient wisdom patiently waiting
For an invitation to participate in your life

When you consult your inner guide
There is no question unanswered
Only our unwillingness to listen
To the soul's knowing truth

Open up to new possibilities no matter how small
And you will notice things beginning to change
Find the courage and confidence to
Venture forth and meet your otherside

Seek clarity, wisdom and freedom
Expand as you've never done before
Embrace all around you
And your inner knowing will shine through.

- Frances Harris,

Thanks Tracey for passing this along.