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/


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.)

Honesty and Trust

In my August 19 2011 blog posting I tied passion with the value of integrity.  Part of the entry read to be a person of integrity requires honesty – being honest with yourself and so with others, keeping your word; requires trust – trusting yourself and so trusting others, being trusted and being able to trust others”

I’d like to pick up these comments and so tie passion with integrity and integrity with trust and honesty, and then these back again to passion


Honesty is a characteristic of a moral character.  Wikipedia defines honesty as a characteristic of a moral character “and denotes positive, virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, and straightforwardness in telling the truth, being sincere, truthful, honorable, fair, trustworthy, and loyal with integrity” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honesty

Anthony B Robinson (keynote speaker and preacher, consultant and coach, author, columnist and teacher) in his guest article “120 qualities you’ll find in a person of integrity”, states as number 3 “A person with integrity is truthful.  You can trust what they tell you”. http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Articles-Of-Faith-10-qualities-you-ll-find-in-a-1277815.php

It is not easy being truthful.  Too often we consider that the little ‘white lie’ is akin to telling the truth, and that a ‘near truth’ is as good as ‘the’ truth.

In his 1978 hit song “Honesty” (1978 Sony BMG music), Billy Joel takes an honest look at honesty and doesn’t like what he does not find…… “If you look for truthfulness you might just as well be blind and always seems so hard to find….”  His chorus lines paint even a dimmer reality:…”Honesty is such a lonely word, everyone is so untrue.  Honesty is hardly ever heard, mostly what I need from you”.  And in his relationship   “All I want is someone to believe…..”.

To ponder over:  As people of integrity and practitioners of passion, do we always give what people need?  Do people hear honesty from us?  Are we people to believe in?  What do we gain from being dishonest (or to put it another way what do we stand to lose if we are caught out being dishonest?)


I believe that trust and trustworthiness are central to successful human interaction – being able to trust others and being able to trust.  But what is ‘trust”?  Trust has different meanings to different people, to different roles and in different contexts/scenarios.  It is very much a subjective judgment. 

It is trust in the context of inter-personal relationships that I would like to dwell on for a moment.    Interpersonal trust involves two parties who interact with each other: on the one hand there I the person who trusts (trustor) and on the other hand there is the person who is trusted (trustee)  “Interpersonal trust is an expectation about a future behavior of another person and an accompanying feeling of calmness, confidence, and security depending on the degree of trust and the extent of the associated risk”  (Walter Bamberger 2010 in “Interpersonal Trust – Attempt of a Definition” http://www.ldv.ei.tum.de/en/research/fidens/interpersonal-trust/

Brian Tracy (Canadian life-coach, motivator and speaker) says trust is the glue that holds all relationships together. “The glue that holds all relationships together — including the relationship between the leader and the led is trust, and trust is based on integrity.”  Note how he links trust with integrity.

To ponder over:  As people of integrity and practitioners of passion, how trustworthy are we?  Do we trust our students?  Are we people to believe in? 


As an educator who in past positions has also had to take the role of the Deputy Principal in charge of student management (secondary) one of the things I commented on often to students is that one of my pet dislikes in people was lying because without honesty I felt that a relationship built on trust could not occur, and that without the allied value of respect, honesty could not be built.  I did not take this view because of some doctoral paper or book that I had read but on the basis of my own personal value base.  I believe that you respect those people you trust and one reason you respect them is because you believe in their integrity, with honesty. 

A very recent blog post “how honest leaders destroy their leadership”, comments that ‘it takes more than honesty to preserve trust, you must show respect”. http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/how-honest-leaders-destroy-their-leadership/

Some people work from the premise that trust must be earned, and some from the premise that trust is assumed but can be lost.  Albeit it with the associated dangers of being let down, I take the view that if a person of passion and hence integrity (say a teacher)  is to establish a true relationship with another (say, a student), then trust should be assumed.

To ponder over:  As people of integrity and practitioners of passion, do we work on the premise that trust must be earned, or from the premise that trust is assumed?  Do we believe that relationships with students should be constructed on both honesty and respect?