Saturday, December 20, 2008

What Africa Has Done For My Work.

My wife and I just returned from our first visit to Egypt and Ghana, West Africa. In Egypt, we cruised the Nile visiting many temples & tombs from Aswan to Luxor and witnessed the progressive innovative & engineering progression that is the Pyramids from dirt piles and steps in Saqqara to the Great Pyramids in Giza. In Ghana, we visited friends in Accra, a child we sponsor through World Vision in Saboba and slave castles in Elmina & Cape Coast. It was an amazing trip and has certainly left an impression on me that will impact my work for time to come. Here are my observations!

1. Happiness Is Not Made Of Stuff - When in Ghana, I witnessed an economy transitioning from agricultural to pre industrial lacking many of the conveniences I take for granted like running hot water, centralized convenience stores, big box retailers, trash pick up, broadband in every home, spacious and pristine homes, easy credit (debt), numerous (and big) cars, etc., yet Ghana is one of the happiest nations on the planet. My Ghanaian friend reminded me that what they have going for them versus the US is that they have "no debt" and "each other". This jolted me as we spend lots of time in the US working to get and keep our stuff while others have less stuff but have each other (family & community). I have to admit that I am not disavowing my stuff outright but I am changed by this insight and committed to moving more and more toward a relatively stuffless, yet more relationful lifestyle over time.

2. Our Work Affects The World's Problems Via Solutions & Investment - Our visit to Saboba, in the bush of northeast Ghana to visit World Vision and our child, Nakoja Lampo, reinforced for me the importance of my work in tackling the world's problems and the impact of my income invested in programs that tackling problems I care about. During our visit, we saw well drilling projects that are eradicating typhoid and guinea worm, lake irrigation projects that enable the cultivation of crops during dry season, school construction that is bring literacy to communities and Mringa tree cultivation and education projects which are providing alternative pharmacological resources to these communities. We experienced the appreciation of World Vision, Nakoja's family (of 2 parents, 5 siblings, grandparents, uncles and cousins) and even the village regent and elders for our contribution and visit. We saw first hand what a little investment over a long period of time can do for many in need. This motivated us to consider how we might do more both qualitatively and quantitatively in our work and investments to affect those problems in the world that we care about. When I go to work and invest my pay check, I see this connection more now than I did before the trip.

3. I Am Grateful And Challenged To Be Less Wasteful - Nothing reinforces who you are more than visiting someplace else and while I am proudly African-American, my visit has reinforced that I am truly more American than African. I am simultaneously grateful for the wealth of America and ashamed of how I waste that wealth. I am challenged to do more with what I have and to complain less about what I do not having seen what more the Egyptians and Ghanians get done with their relative lack of material wealth and convenience.

4. I Value More The Way Others Get Things Done And How Much Can Be Accomplished With Less - In further consideration of my last statement, I admire the economy and ingenuity of the Egyptians and Ghanaians as I witnessed people getting on with their lives and quite productively, less daunted by their poverty than I expected and more industrious than too many Americans I know. Again, leaving home opens your eyes to the value of how others get things done. I am not saying that other places are relative heaven, but I also observe that they are not always in as much relative hell as we might think they are.

5. My Work Must Honor The Suffering & Hope Of My Ancestors - Visiting the slave castles of Cape Coast & Elmina in Ghana were moving for me as you can imagine. I walked through the dungeons and pitch black prison areas that were the last destinations of my ancestors before coming to the Americas. I also walked through the infamous " Door of No Return" that led out of the castle onto the beach and the slave ships. During this visit and since I reflect on the journey that started in those dungeons which has led through many generations of brutality, hardship and discrimination to my life and work. I recognize that through all those generations my ancestors were working and hoping for me and I have to feel some obligation to upholding, advancing and rewarding that hope in how I conduct my work and the impact it makes on the world. In this way their suffering is not in vain.

6. Society Can Achieve Anything When Pursuing God & Immortality - Visiting the ancient temples, monuments, tombs and pyramids of Egypt amazed me for their innovation, engineering, design and attention to detail. An underlying principle in all this work seems to have been the pursuit of God(s)' favor & protection and their own immortality, or at least that of their leaders. It occurred to me that we are not so different in our own pursuit of God and immortality as manifest in our work. Our work, and its contribution to this consumerist society we inhabit in the West, is by degrees the same pursuit to appease our God, our puritan work ethic, our capitalist/socialist aspirations, our families and ourselves. In this we seek a degree of immortality in what we produce for others to consume as well as in what we consume. I love to identify these parallels in culture and history whenever I travel. Though culturally different, we are not as different and evolved in some areas as we might think, eh? I think this point speaks to the merit of good work being about someone/thing larger than ourselves. With this merit, we can indeed achieve the seeming impossible, together.


You can see the pictures from our trip at: 


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Where There Is A Flood, Build A Levee!

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Nature of Communication is Miscommunication

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Deliverables: An Alternative View of Value Presentation

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Finding (Making) Time for Online Communities

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Opportunity: Who’s Pursuing Who? It or You?

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Take It Educationally, Not Personally

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Progressive Power of “Will Continue”

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

On Using delicious Social Bookmarks

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What readers are saying:

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Dealing with the Enemies that Priorities Breed

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Friday, August 01, 2008

iPod/iTunes: A Training & Development Tool?

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On Using Twitter

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Time: What Are You Making With Yours?

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Enthusiasm: The Dance that Attracts Investment

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Everything Comes To Pass ...

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Monday, June 16, 2008

If I am humble ... Part II

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What readers are saying:

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Stinkiest Manure Can Build The Strongest Plants

A year ago I moved in to a garden district of Philadelphia called Chestnut Hill that is just bustling with every kind of tree, bush, plant and flower. More than at any other time of my life I have been intimately witnessing how vegetation behaves throughout the 4 seasons of the year. This spring, while observing the generous use (and peculiar odor) of manure all around my residence, it occurred to me that this awful decomposition of nature is also one of the building blocks of the strongest and most healthy plant life.

Well, as in nature so in life because the immediate next thought for me was that in my life
the strongest and healthiest aspects (plants) of my character have been born of the stinkiest, most difficult and unpleasant situations and people (manure). I did not wish for this manure in my life but it has had a fertilizing effect nonetheless, and in retrospect I am thankful for it. This retrospective has caused me to be more tolerant and even grateful for the present fresh manure in my life, which by the way is laid at my root in all seasons of the year, not just the Spring. I take this attitude because I know that with the right combination of other elements, i.e., patience, persistence, lovingkindness, etc., this manure will further strengthen the plants of my character.

Take a different look at the manure in your life today and see it as "character fertilizer", not only as the s*#t it also is.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Getting Good at Being In A Bad Mood


  • This blog post has relocated to a book, The WiseWorking Handbook. Please visit it there.  

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Giving Ourselves (& Others) Credit

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What readers are saying:

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Work: Service or Slavery?

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What readers are saying:

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Giving Others (& Ourselves) A Break

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What readers are saying:

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

If I am humble, I cannot be overcome.

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What readers are saying:

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Failure Needs No Plan

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What readers are saying:

"The WiseWorking Handbook is written in a down to earth, engaging style.” - Bud Bulanich

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Valuing The Givers More Than The Gifts

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What readers are saying:

"The WiseWorking Handbook is written in a down to earth, engaging style.” - Bud Bulanich

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Monday, March 24, 2008

The Power of “Yet”!

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What readers are saying:

"The WiseWorking Handbook is written in a down to earth, engaging style.” - Bud Bulanich

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Consider the Unrealized Tragedy

As human being we are wired for noticing what goes wrong, and to a greater degree, what may go wrong (though it usually does not). It is this hard wiring that makes us good planners and survivors. Like all else in the cosmos, when taken to an extreme, this inclination is unhealthy. Balance is needed. 


This balance is aided by the consideration of the “unrealized tragedy”. The “unrealized tragedies” are all the things we anticipate and expect to go wrong which do not. It is the plan B that was not needed, the conflict that did not happen, the delay that did not occur, the good health, and even the life, that got extended, whether that be an organization or an individual. These are all points for gratefulness and affirmation. It is these “unrealized tragedies” that give us the evidence that, more often than not, things do go well. This is particularly important to meditate on when in the midst of a bad day, month or even year.

This meditation calls to mind the scripture, Psalms 91 which alludes to the many tragedies that regularly happen in life but which “shall not come nigh thee”. I am moment to moment grateful for these "unrealized tragedies".

I find that in my daily rush of planning contingencies and losing peace and sleep over "potential tragedies" I cannot anticipate or plan for, considering the “unrealized tragedies” of my past and present, helps me to keep things in perspective.


Monday, March 10, 2008

How You Use Your Reasons Determines Whether You Get Results

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What readers are saying:

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Patience & Persistence: 2 Practices Worth More Than The Effort To Develop Them

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What readers are saying:

"The WiseWorking Handbook is written in a down to earth, engaging style.” - Bud Bulanich

"Get this book. Read it. Keep it handy for when you need a little inspiration or some solid advice on how to work wisely and increase your value at work.” - Bud Bulanich