A Passion Point to Ponder: What name do you claim for your mistakes?

It has been a long, long time since my last post and I have been inspired to regenerate this public blog by the very person who ‘identified’ my passion as an educator many years ago – Charles Kovess. With permission, I reproduce (with only minor changes/deletions) a “Passion Note to Ponder” written by Charles in April 2013.

None of us are perfect. The crux of Kovess’ message is that “skill mistakes’ can and need to be repeated, but ‘attitude mistakes’ must not be repeated. Furthermore, Kovess suggests that the key to a poor attitude is a lack of passion.

“What Name do you Claim for your Mistakes? “

“We all make mistakes, but the important thing is not to make the same one twice.” So concluded the news article about Australian politics. In the context of mistakes and their magnitude, the reference was to a relatively minor one, but the advice remains popular.

However, our contrary view that there are almost no skills a person can develop without making repeated mistakes. It is said that gymnasts need to practice a move over 10,000 times before they can consider themselves to be masters of that move!

Mistakes, and their consequences, have been newsworthy in the sports and business world this year. From the cyclist Lance Armstrong publically admitting his, to the silence of the Rio Tinto executives who by ‘mutual agreement’ will be leaving to, no doubt, contemplate theirs.
“Rio Chief is Shown the Door after One Mistake too Many” was the international headline about Rio Tinto’s major asset write downs.

This raises the question of how many mistakes are acceptable, what types of mistakes, and in what context?

Babies learn only from their mistakes, the more they make the more they learn; but growth, age, education and context change all that. Many people are punished as they grow for making mistakes, so they become ‘mistake-averse’; this is a very dangerous and limiting strategy in a world that is changing so rapidly, a world that requires constant development of new skills!

Making mistakes with your money is your affair; making mistakes with other people’s is not. When that money is invested in a publicly-listed company, its impact can be severe and diverse; from major investment funds to Mum & Dad’s superannuation.

So is there a distinction? What types of mistakes can be repeated?

Our view is this: ‘skill mistakes’ can and need to be repeated, ‘attitude mistakes’ must not be repeated. And the key to a poor attitude is a lack of passion.

A mistake can be sobering antidote; a medicine best taken to develop and maintain a healthy learning experience. Do not unnecessarily repeat the dose through a poor attitude and learn little.

How you view your mistakes will depend on how often you take the medicine.


“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”
Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), Irish playwright, writer and poet.

What name do you give to your mistakes; does learning claim the title?
“Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment.”
Jim Roche, (1911-2002), Co-founder of Roche Bros Mining, an Australian success story.

Is your experience limited through your fear of exercising bad judgment?
Reproduced(with minor changes) from “A passion point to ponder” Charles Kovess 10 April 2013
See also: http://kovessexecutivecoaching.com/blog/


A matter of time

Image: Carey, Chris. clockstreetcanal.jpg. 1-Mar. Pics4Learning. 3 Dec 2011

I am about to change jobs. Both my current job and new job contracts specify the time I am meant to be at work. What is very different about my new job – Project Manager – is that every step is so strongly dictated to by time deadlines – X has to be completed by such and such a time, and so forth.

“Time” – a fascinating topic. So I thought I’d blog a little article about it.

However, little did I know what a challenge I set myself when I decided to write about ‘time’.

We hear and speak of “time” in many different contexts:
• It seems we ‘run out of time’ in meeting deadlines
• ‘it’s time’ when we have to finish something or when a change is called for
• “don’t waste time” is what we are told when it seems we are about to do nothing with time
• ‘doing time’ is a period (it seems) of imprisonment
• ‘what’s the time?’ is a question we ask when we need to know the clock time
• ‘if only I had time’ we implore when we seek something we thing we don’t have, or
• ‘I’ve no time’ we say when something that needs doing is something we say we cannot ; or
• “I wish I had time to….” we say when we believe somehow that time is not present for us and we have to wish for its existence
• ‘killing time’ is a period, it seems when humans defeat time and do nothing
• ‘time will tell’ when what passes from now into the future will bring some revelation
• ‘time management’ is a system of manipulating time to suit purpose
• “the end of time” is, according to Christians, when ‘time’ as we know it will cease to be and a new ‘time’ commences

There have been many songs composed about “time” One, actually based on a passage in the Christian Bible (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) tells of time for every matter under heaven…., “Turn, turn, turn – to everything there is a season” The Byrds, and then there is “The times they are a changin” Bob Dylan, “Sounds of Silence” Simon & Garfunkel, ,“Time” Backstreet Boys, “Wasted time” Eagles, “One time” Justin Bieber. One particular website I researched had lyrics for 1000 song titles with the word ‘time’ in it (www.azlyrics.com)

Time is a part of human existence and as the above shows, time has many contexts and facets – human time, clock time, calendar time. It seems though that no Science is yet able to define or agree on what ‘time” is. Time these days is also associated with ‘value’ – it seems these days that people are ‘time poor”. What does that really mean?

I’ve always thought that time is something that passes? Does it? Why then do we look forward to ‘the time when”. Perhaps then, time comes? Realistically I confess… I do not know what ‘time’ is!

A little research was needed to help me understand ‘time”! The following quote from Benjamin Franklin helped me understand: “Does thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of”. Makes sense – time is life and our life is time. Or, I hope that makes sense.

Time is what we want most, but what we use worst” (William Penn), so remember “It’s not the hours you put in your work that count, it is the work you put in the hours” (Sam Ewing).

I rather like that last saying; it tells us to use our ‘time’ wisely, and when linked to the Benjamin Franklin quote tells us that we should use our life wisely – for time is the “stuff” life is made of.

So, whatever time is for you, value it, use it well, live it. Ask yourself: “Am I using my time at work wisely?” “Do I make enough time for my life out of work?”, , “Have I volunteered enough of my available time to help with social causes? “Am I ensuring that my time as an educator is actually resulting in making a difference to someone?”

I’ve put in time to write about ‘time’ because I actually ‘made’ time to do it! How clever is that? To be able to ‘make’ time to do something you want to do? I hope you have enjoyed spending your ‘time’ reading it and reflecting on the many messages contained within. (By the way, I’ve just realised that the word ‘time” has been used about 70 times in this posting!)

Ion charged

My understanding of matters of chemistry and physics is, to say the least, very limited. However my passion as an educator and in other endeavors in life is crystal clear to me. It occurred to me recently that ‘passion’ together with many of the positive words we use to illustrate its presence, inputs or results all end in “ion”. This revelation was accompanied by another, perhaps more startling one given my background, and that is that taken alone ‘ion’ is a word used to depict a type of building block of every physical thing – the air, water, human beings.

An ion is an atom –the smallest identifiable piece of matter that makes up the building blocks of every physical thing. – or molecule – a group of atoms. To be an ion the total number of electrons (subatomic particles with a negative charge) in the atom is not equal to the total number of protons, (subatomic particles with a positive charge) giving it a net positive or negative electrical charge. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ion and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/atom

Ok, so an ion can, on balance be positively or negatively charged. Negatively charged ions, for example are good for health and healing. Our body system will not adequately function without negative ions. So negative ions can have a positive effect on people. Conversely positive ions can have a negative effect on people. To confuse things even further the removal of an electron from an atom is in fact called a positive ion and the adding of an extra electron is called a negative ion. Conclusion? Negative and positive in terms of ions are actually reversed. See http://www.negativeiongenerators.com/negativeions.html

So to the relationship between ions and passion.

Passion has a positive effect on people.

To realise one’s passion requires self-awareness and hence the realisation of what makes us passionate and its stimulation into action. Some imagination is required in the generation and creation of passion. For some the practice of a captured passion is in fact an innovation or even a revolution. However to have true passion requires the motivation and determination to see it through. For some the projection of their passion is part of their vision to positively impact on others; for others it is a mission through vocation.

The outcomes of the generation of passion are full of emotion, and encompass such things as elation, jubilation and exhilaration both in the passionate person and the people whose lives they touch.

So passion is ion charged.

Who cares if in physics and chemistry ions are positive but really negative and negative but really positive

Passion is all about being charged up with the right ions.

Who makes a difference?

  It makes no difference who you are or what you look like, or used to look like – one of the facts of life is ageing and eventual death.  However, have you ever thought about what things about a person really makes a difference to you? Their physical appearance tells one story, but their actions tell us more. Mother Theresa physically was frail but it was not her fragility that we remember her by, but her actions.  There are many stories to tell about who has made a difference in people’s lives.  Recently at a Rotary Seminar I attended we heard a Chief Executive Officer of a famous football club tell of the impact his father had made on the life of a poor farmer in Russia. The story goes something like this: Ian’s father had read about how a particular farmer in Russia had scrounged around for a spare type for his tractor so that he could continue working on his land. Ian’s father said to his son “I’m going to buy that farmer a new tractor”. Through many emails, much lobbying, many hours of toil, and with the help of fundraising through Rotary, he achieved this goal. Ian’s father eventually travelled to Russia and met the farmer. It was Ian’s father that made a difference in the life of the Russian farmer!

Who makes a difference (or has made a difference) in your life? Do (have) you make a difference to anyone else’s life ?   As educators we aim to touch the lives of all of our students, particularly through our passion for teaching and our specialty area in the curriculum, but also through our genuine displays of care and concern for the young people in our charge.

The following is the philosophy of Charles Schulz, the creator of the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip. The original post can be found at http://www.funnycoolstuff.com/2011/06/25/peanuts-philosophy/.  (I have “Australianized some  the questions so substitute appropriate local names if reading from any other country, or just go to the link for the original).

You don’t have to actually answer the questions. Just ponder on them – read straight through, and you’ll get the point.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in Australia. 2. Name the last five Melbourne Cup winning jockeys. 3. Name the last five winners of the Miss Australia pageant. 4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize. 5. Name the last half dozen Gold Logie Winners. 6. Name the Australian Gold medal winners from the last 3 Olympic Games.

So how did you do?

The point is: none of us remember many of the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. With many, achievements are forgotten. Awards tarnish. Accolades & certificates are buried with their owners.

Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school. 2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time. 3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile. 4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special. 5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

Easier? – The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not ones with the most credentials, the most money…or the most awards. They simply are the ones who care the most. 

“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia” [Charles M Schultz]

”Be Yourself. Everyone Else Is Taken!” [Oscar Wilde]

Reflections on worth

Worthless? Worth less? Passionless?

Recently as part of my early journeys as President of my local Rotary club, I have been privileged to be invited to a number of meetings of local community facilities which our club supports. 

As I was at these facilities and also as I later read some case studies of people striken with polio I began to reflect on the questions – why do some people consider these to be worthless human beings?  If not worthless, then why worth less?  I reflected further – surely passion knows no boundaries?

The moments which made me reflect:

Firstly:  I recently attended the AGM of a local home which cares for and trains people with intellectual disabilities.The facility’s mission statement reads:  “xxx strives to meet the needs and wishes of people with intellectual disabilities through care and support to enrich and challenge them to be part of the world community”, and their branding message is “dignity and purpose”. It was pleasing to see the name of our club and our past activities noted in the Annual Report booklet, as well as see the names of several club members mentioned as individual donors. But what moved me were several things related to the residents.  Firstly, there was the singing group “The Bandits” who proudly and passionately performed several songs to those present before the AGM, completely unperturbed by their respective intellectual disabilities.  Secondly were the residents presented various achievement awards. Here two residents stood out – the male who, in spite of his autism, obtained employment and had to learn how to use public transport to travel to work, and the female who had lost her mother and brother carers before coming to the facility where she learnt social and employment skills.  Third were the interactions between a number of the residents.  They communicated need, affection and thanks to both carers and each other through simple acts of touching, kissing on the cheek or holding hands.  I must say I felt uncomfortable, embarrassed but also touched when one of the residents clutched my arm and leaned her head on my shoulder after I made an effort to engage in conversation with her at super.  All of these examples involve people and demonstrated to me the worth of individuals which we sometimes either don’t recognise or acknowledge and how the passion of these residents has no boundaries.

 The next event which moved me was my second visit to a local Aged Care facility.  “Rosie” the activities co-ordinator has sought my Rotary club’s help in creating a sensory garden for the residents. The area is small and the ask is modest.  This was my first meeting with “Rosie”, and she exuded a passion for the residents as people of worth, and she wanted to make a difference for them.  As “Rosie” showed me through the facility and we talked about the services provided, I was touched by the care and dedication shown by the staff to the residents and “Rosie’s” passion to provide.  Each of these people recognised the worth of the individuals in their care.  I do hope the sensory garden project become a reality as passion has no boundaries!

Finally I was reading of Rotary’s on-going efforts to rid the world of Polio, particularly their ‘this close’ campaign.  In doing so I ventured across a comment about a particular Band in the Congo called “Staff Benda Bilili”.  Most of the band are disabled, crippled by polio as children, and drive around in modified Chinese mopeds.  Their message is not one of despair but of hope, not focussing on their own disabilities but on the disabilities of their nation.  They are indeed people of worth; they are passionate about their music and the messages it conveys.  Passion has no boundaries!  Be entertained by the following clip in which they sing a message about polio and how immunisation cures.

Passionate People Produce!  Passion has no boundaries!

Self awareness and passion

In my introductory blog post I referred to, and quoted, Charles Kovess as being the person I attribute to making me aware of the importance of passion.  Recently Charles was interviewed by Alan Kohler on Business spectator’s CEO Hub.  In the 10 minute interview Alan asked Charles some interesting questions and got even more interesting answers.  While the interview was directed more at CEO’s and leaders in business (and mainly to males), the parallels to passion in whatever capacity one holds (such as a teacher), are clear.

Kovess maintains that the most important capability of a leader is self-awareness through discovering passion.  He says that self-awareness is needed to be able to know what one is passionate about. He defines self-awareness as being vulnerable to the ability to honestly answer deep questions such as “what motivates me?”, “what do I value?”, “what do I want?”, “what do I think life is about?”

While the entire 10 minutes of the interview is interesting and relevant, the answers to the following initial questions are what I would like readers to particularly note:

*  What is passion, and why is it relevant ?

*  What is the important link between passion and the most important capability?

*  How do you gain this most important capability?      

 Go to http://leadership.businessspectator.com.au/ceo-hub

I am interested to hear your views of the relationships between Kovess’ ideas and being a passionate person/leader/teacher

Primary students with passion

I am currently the proud President of the Rotary Club of Mont Albert & Surrey Hills (affectionately known as MASH) – a mixed gender, non-traditional, active, welcoming club of 36 members.

We are only 7 years ‘old’ and since being chartered have conducted an annual Public Speaking competition for local primary (elementary) schools – principally for grade 6 students.

The idea came from two of our charter members who visited a club in New Zealand and saw this type of event being held. Our club adapted the model and has been running it ever since. So successful is the idea that in 2010 our District (District 9810 – 49 clubs) recommended it as an initiative for other clubs to follow. Several clubs have.

All of that is by way of background. Our finals were conducted on August 30 this year and I acted as MC. As an educator, what impresses me on each occasion this event is held is the passionate presentations by the students, and no more so than this year. By way of introduction to the night I advised the 10 finalists (from 5 schools) by quoting Doctor Zeus:

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”

Below are my comments or quotes on each speaker’s presentation and a brief summary by my fellow MC from Toastmasters while the judges were deliberating:

What ‘others’ lack..? “What I would do is put a sparkle in their eyes, smiles on parent faces and harmony in the world” (Chryssa) – finalist

Judges comment: “a very thoughtful speech”

 Happiness is “immersion in an activity or goal…a feeling of accomplishment when you do a good deed” (Charlie) – finalist

Judges comment: “profound thoughts and good humor”

“I love my mum, even though she embarrasses, …she would do anything for me…” (Holly) – 2nd place winner

Judges comment: “Good use of humor and a very expressive speech”

 “I was born in Chile and arrived in Australia when I was 3. Australia is a great place to live because people are polite and friendly, it is multi-cultural….” (Luna) – finalist

Judges comment: “Confident presentation and well put together”

“Happiness is a smiley face – an emoticon – so simple but so complex; as simple as things like enjoying favorite foods; complex because happiness often comes with other emotions…elation..achievement…joy..pleasure..concentration..anticipation..excitement..” (Daniel) – 3rd place winner

Judges comment: “Well crafted and strong delivery of speech”

“If I had superpowers I would take away three negatives – racism, cancer, poverty” (Lachlan) – finalist

Judges comment: “Good detail and knew the topic well”

 ”…. but it was about having a conversation…that will always be special” (Nicholas) – 1st place winner

Judges comment: “Great energy and humor; very expressive and energetic presentation”

 “My happiest experience…. a roller coaster ride at Disneyland.. excited, nervous, scared, numb.” “ups, downs and loops……again! again!” (Emily) – finalist

Judges comment: “Great vocal variety”

 “1.4 billion people in the world live below the poverty line -1 billion of them children” If I could change the world…. I would get cured…the hungry, the homeless, poverty” (Harry) – finalist

Judges comment: “Strong speech with a call to action”

 “Happiness… people search for happiness without even realizing it… happy minds lead to healthy bodies…… you choose happiness” (Zara) – finalist

Judges comment: “Expressive voice and well researched”

What words can I add to the extracts above from the students themselves to explain further the sheer talent, confidence, competence… and passion, of the 10 finalists of the MASH 7th Primary Public Speaking Competition ?

The prevailing themes of the speakers tended to revolve around ‘happiness’ or the cure for ‘unhappiness”.

I’d like to share some of the words I scribbled onto my MC notes by way of summary about each speaker – passionate, emotive, confident, profound thoughts, confident, passionate, clear, confident, informed and real, great, great content, clear diction, confident, powerful, expressive gestures, passionate, great punch-line, passionate, confident, great research, great content, passionate.

 Simple summary really: passionate, confident, and great. These students were not even born when the film “Flashdance” adorned the cinemas [1983] and the theme song – “What a feeling” was a number 1 hit on the charts. But they embraced what the film was all about and what one line of the lyrics so aptly describes “Take your passion and make it happen”

Photo: (front from L to R) 3rd place Daniel, 1st place Nicholas; 2nd place Holly. Rear: Tony, MC and President of RC of MASH

 The final word

 If there is no passion in your life, then have you really lived? Find your passion, whatever it might be. Become it, and let it become you and you will find great things happen FOR you, TO you and BECAUSE of you” (T. Alan Armstrong, Author.)