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/

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]

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.)

Passionate People Produce – introduction

“Take your passion, make it happen You can have it all now, you’re dancing through your life….”     (words from “Flashdance”, written by Keith Forsey & Irene Cara)

I’ve always been a fairly excitable and expressive teacher who loved his work and his subject areas and put all into his teaching and leading, and worked hard to achieve satisfaction in a wide variety of roles in education.

Yet it was a parent in 1997, Charles Kovess (CEO Kovess International) who, in saying that I was ‘passionate’ educator, introduced me to the phrase “Passionate People Produce”. Initially I thought the mantra was just a bit of ‘spin’, especially since the Charles had published a book by the same title (Passionate People Produce, Nacson & Sons 1997), but I have learnt to see the wisdom of his philosophy.

To quote the opening sentence of the introduction to his book “I believe that finding one’s passion, and then pursuing it, is the key to a life of fulfilment, of achievement, of learning”. Kovess then addresses some simplified meanings of passion:

• Soul

• What you ‘love’ to do

• What ‘spontaneously arouses’ you

• What ‘excites’ you

• A guidepost toward our true purpose

Recognising a ‘passionate’’ person Kovess suggests: “such persons exude energy, power, excitement, drive and commitment. Their eyes sparkle, they are fully alive. They impact on us in a special way.”

Finding your passion and pursuing it

Chris Guillebau “The art of non-conformity” in an Elluminate Live Webinar ( www.FutureofEducation.com ) on 20/5/11 recommended the following approach

1. What excites you, gets you out of the bed in the morning? (for example, teaching, a job)

 2. What bothers you? – If you could solve one problem in the world, what would it be?

3. What is the connection between 1 & 2: most people don’t know 4. Don’t be afraid to try things – the broader the experiences the better because they help you discover the answer to question 1.

A passionate educator

Does teaching excite you? In your everyday activities ‘at work’ do others see you as exuding energy, drive and commitment? Do you genuinely ‘love’ what you do?

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart,…you’ll know when you find it.” — Steve Jobs

I believe that I as an educator I have found, and am pursuing my passion. How does this concept resonate with you?