Although "The Element" was authored by Ken Robinson, this is the book I've been writing for the past ten years.
For a long time, I've been arguing thatAlthough "The Element" was authored by Ken Robinson, this is the book I've been writing for the past ten years.
For a long time, I've been arguing that passion is a bridge between our unique human potential and our social responsibility. I begin almost every workshop, speech, and lecture by asking my participants to talk about one of their personal or professional passions.
Eyes light up and the temperature in the room rises as people connect to what Robinson would call "their element."
His book is a collection of stories about people who have discovered their unique gifts—their element—the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. His writing is like a having a coach in the pages of the book.
I wasn't surprised, in fact, I was waiting for his discussion of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's "flow state," a concept I've been including as one of the key ingredients for social profit sustainability in my recent talks.
I liked the book a great deal. It made me think. It helped me realize how lucky I am to be among the very few who get to do what they really love; and it reminded me of my responsibility in helping others to uncover their own path—their own element....more
I highly recommend ”The Kite Runner“ by Afghanistan-born Khaled Hosseini. It is an amazing fictionalized account of growing up in Afghanistan and struI highly recommend ”The Kite Runner“ by Afghanistan-born Khaled Hosseini. It is an amazing fictionalized account of growing up in Afghanistan and struggling to find one's place in a world at once enriched and complicated by culture, tradition, and the relationships between fathers and sons. The journey of the young protagonist into adulthood is one of the most beautifully and frighteningly written stories I've ever read....more
Yesterday, I finished “Memories of My Melancholy Whores,” by Gabriel Garciá Márquez. A Nobel Prize winning author from Columbia, Márquez is probably bYesterday, I finished “Memories of My Melancholy Whores,” by Gabriel Garciá Márquez. A Nobel Prize winning author from Columbia, Márquez is probably best known for “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” which is next on my list. This newest of his books chronicles the life of a man on the edge of celebrating his 90th birthday. His reflections about loves lost and found again, dreams never realized, passions not sparked until the sunset of his life, challenge you to create a life without regret and one that slows only to gather the strength to look at each new day with hope and joy....more
“Blindness,” by Nobel Prize winning author José Saramago (from Portugal), is a terrifying account of what happens when the inhabitants of an entire co“Blindness,” by Nobel Prize winning author José Saramago (from Portugal), is a terrifying account of what happens when the inhabitants of an entire country suddenly and inexplicably begin going blind. It is a primal story that descends through an exploration of our most base human instincts as people struggle to survive; all the while offering some hope for redemption through simple acts of compassion....more
One of my favorite parts of traveling is the chance to read some of the books that are stacking up on the floor in my bedroom. The pace of life doesn'One of my favorite parts of traveling is the chance to read some of the books that are stacking up on the floor in my bedroom. The pace of life doesn't always leave time for these simple pleasures, but there is really no excuse when you're crossing time zones in the air.
Speaking about my work abroad, a close friend of mine recommended the book I just finished—How Soccer Explains the World—which takes an unusual look at globalization through an analysis of the impact of soccer (football to most of the world) on cultures around the globe.
With World Cup mania in full swing and matches beginning June 9th in the city from which I just departed—Frankfurt, Germany—it was a very timely choice. In fact, the first chapter is all about Red Star Belgrade which was a major political force in the former Yugoslavia. Arriving in the newly independent Serbia and reading that chapter at the same time was a little surreal. It certainly added to my growing perspective on the history of the Balkans, especially the break-up of Yugoslavia.
In each of the chapters that follows, the author, Franklin Foer, looks at the impact of soccer within a particular country or region, exploring issues of nationalism, feudalism, race and class, hooliganism, brutality, the rise and fall of political leaders and sports heroes, religion, hegemony, corruption, and power; yet somehow allows us to feel hopeful for the future.
Its clear that soccer, football rather, has been around for a long time and is here to stay. In fact, between 1987 and 2000, the number of kids playing baseball dropped 47% in the United States, while youth soccer became the rage. According to Foer, there were 1.3 million more kids playing soccer than baseball.
I have to admit that its only been the past few years that I have paid much attention to the worldwide obsession with soccer. I grew up at a time in America when parents pushed their kids (boys at least) to play little league, not soccer. The only time I played with a soccer ball was gym class in primary school and that was for dodge ball. It wasn't a sport we played in college either, though I remember endless hours of hackeysack which I guess was my generation's attempt at getting into the action.
These days though, with all of my overseas travel, a great home team in DC United, a bunch of young nieces, nephews, and godchildren, and some good friends heading to Germany this summer, I'm becoming a convert.
I've let go of any dreams of competitive greatness for me, but I can sure be a world class fan! Of course, having said that, I did pick-up my official World Cup t-shirt, hat, soccer ball, and water bottle. Who knows, “There is nothing like a dream to create the future!”
So grab the book and be sure to catch a few matches of this year's exciting World Cup. We won't see another for four long years. Of course, I'll be cheering for the American home team, the team representing Serbia and Montenegro (for the last time in light of Montenegro's recent vote for independence), and after reading the book, a new favorite, Barca, the Catalan team from Barcelona. I love their passion and their politics....more
Having arrived in Belgrade in Serbia late yesterday, I had the opportunity to do quite a bit of reading on this 18 hour journey around the world. At hHaving arrived in Belgrade in Serbia late yesterday, I had the opportunity to do quite a bit of reading on this 18 hour journey around the world. At home, I don't do as much reading as I used to and certainly not as much as I would like. A good book is always an adventure.
When I'm traveling, I set reading goals for myself. I know that sounds crazy, but I have stacks of books that I am desperate to get through. So many amazing stories. I try to read a mix of genres, but I prefer those books that cause me to shift my thinking about the world. I like books that make me think, that make me angry, and that make me want to act and change my life or change the world.
The book I read coming over is called “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” by John Perkins. This is one of the scariest books I've read in a while and talk about making you angry! It strikes me as having quite a bit of hyperbole, but if even half of what this guy writes is true, it sure explains why so many people feel as they do about the impact of America around the world. One of my mentors, Lynne Twist, who authored “The Soul of Money,” wrote an excellent cover note for the book jacket.
This is essentially an autobiography of a normal middle-class guy, profiled and recruited by the National Security Agency (NSA), trained as what he calls an economic hit man or EHM, and then hired as a corporate economist whose job is to assist in making billion dollar loans to resource-rich developing countries that have much to offer the United States. Working for the “corporatocracy,” his career skyrockets and he is influential in key world events in Saudia Arabia, Panama, Iran during the hostage crisis, Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America, and throughout the Middle East.
His book is an intriguing tell-all tale of corruption, greed, influence-peddling, and just how far our “leaders” will go to sacrifice the needs of many to increase the wealth and power of a few. It should be required reading for anyone with an American passport, anyone who believes that democracy should be about freedom and justice, anyone who wants to understand the impact of globalization and capitalism, anyone who is interested in preventing the needless deaths of 24,000+ people every day just because they have no food to eat.
It certainly fills in some of the gaps in our Americanized view of history and it deals with events recent enough for someone like me to remember and to have what I was taught (or told) challenged. It feels very relevant. Frankly, some of his observations and predictions about what the future holds, particularly in the Middle East, have already come true (he first published the New York Times bestseller in 2004). It scares the heck out of me what else might be coming. I'd encourage you to pick up the book. Read a few chapters at a time and then watch the news. I can almost guarantee that you'll have questions coming to mind that perhaps you'd never considered.
Then, I hope you'll think about what you can do to change things, to make a difference where and in how you live. Its up to each of us to take that first step....more
I finished another great book tonight. It is heavy, dense, a complicated read that may not be for everyone. However, if you have any interest in the hI finished another great book tonight. It is heavy, dense, a complicated read that may not be for everyone. However, if you have any interest in the history and culture of Brazil, then you've got to get this book. A colleague and mentor of mine, Paul Kawata, bought an apartment in Rio a couple of years ago, and spending some time talking with him in California this past spring sparked my interest.
A Death in Brazil: A Book of Omissions is Peter Robb's seductive, intriguing, sometimes terrifying account of Brazil's rich tapestry of culture, politics, music, food, and sex. Written in a sometimes confusing (or maybe confused) style, the book manages to enrich the reader's understanding of this country's wildly complicated past, while entertaining us in the style of one of their famous telenovelas.
Brazil is a country about which I knew very little. The largest country in South America and fifth largest in the world, Brazil was inhabited for more than 10,000 years before its “discovery” by Portuguese explorers in 1500. It is home to the world's largest Catholic population and the second largest Christian population.
Many of the vibrant stories that Robb tells keep you on the edge of your seat with hope, only to crush you under the weight of social injustice. I was particularly horrified by the history of slavery and the ways in which human life often meant so little. Of course, my own U.S. history is not so radically different, perhaps a reason for my terror. His stories about political corruption, abuses of power, murder, espionage, and the like are even more powerful as they are so recent.
If you saw the shockingly disturbing movie, City of God, based on the 1997 book by Paulo Lins, you witnessed life in one of Brazil's hundreds of favelas, or slums. The book and movie paint the picture of what develops when thousands of people become displaced from war or famine or economic disaster. Robb's book goes further, helping us uncover and discover the root causes, maybe even the plan, for these wretched, horrible places.
Robb offers frequent respites from the despair through his vivid descriptions of the beauty of the land and the innocence of so many of its people. His love of food and the details of his gastronomic pursuits alone made me move Brazil to the top of my “Must Explore” list. I've eaten at many Brazilian restaurants in my day, but now understanding the important history of these dishes, I can become even more adventurous and erudite in my eating.
The book ends close to where it begins, offering not much more than a simple thought about how quickly change occurs in this land of passionate and intoxicating extremes. It isn't preachy. It isn't sentimental. It doesn't profess to offer solutions to the country's social ills. Instead, Robb's book is a cross between travelogue, investigative journalism, and that classic Brazilian telenovela....more
Every once in awhile I tell you about a great book I've read that might be of interest to you. If you've been enjoying reading about my exploits and aEvery once in awhile I tell you about a great book I've read that might be of interest to you. If you've been enjoying reading about my exploits and adventures here in Central Eastern Europe, you should read Robert Kaplan's 1993 classic, Balkan Ghosts. Even though he's an American (as my close friend Milos from Serbia has pointed out a few times), this book has been an extraordinary primer for the history of a region that has been so influential in global politics.
Its not an area of the world that we learn much about in the U.S. and that is really a shame. The Balkans are as influential and potentially explosive as the Middle East; and yet few could locate the area on a map. The history and people of the Balkans have influenced virtually ever culture on earth. Alexander the Great, the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire, the beginning of World War I, the defeat of nazism, the coining of phrases like ethnic cleansing—just a few of the hundreds of world-changing events that occurred in these countries.
In 2001, Salon.Com's Laura Rozen wrote in her review of the book that “Reading Robert Kaplan, the master of writing about globalization's dark side, is like putting on a pair of glasses you didn't know you needed. From the static and overflow of information about world events, layers of crisp, dazzling insight emerge. The rocky landscape of political crisis and conflict suddenly yields patterns, trends and meaning.”
Kaplan opines in a way that is a bit too conservative for my tastes, but he wrote the book originally as a travelogue, not political commentary. How was he to know that a U.S. President would rely on his insights when deciding to intervene militarily in Yugoslavia in 1999. Perhaps everything Kaplan writes needs another side for us to glean true understanding. Nonetheless, I've learned a lot from the book. I'm using it to guide my own adventures, visiting some of the places he references, relying on personal observations and the stories and experiences of my new friends in these countries to anchor my own view of history....more