Sunday, May 29, 2011

Power and Love

I just finished the book 'Power and Love' by Adam Kahane. It is a fascinating book. The subtitle reads - 'Solving tough social and organizational Problems'.
The book shows the duality, complementarity and inter-dependency of the two concepts 'power' and 'love'. When I first read those two words in the title, I still thought of them as opposites and this idea of interlinking those two made me particularly curious.

In fascinating ways, Kahane describes his journey as a facilitator, leader, participant and partner trying to grasp those two concepts in his work addressing complex social problems. He shows his own personal challenges in accepting these two forces in group dynamics and the ability to generate change. He provides examples of how he experienced first hand the consequences and difficulties of not allowing a co-existence of both during projects and process. The pictures and metaphors used in the book seem simple but captivating throughout including a vast variety of authors and practitioners. In order to explain 'power' and 'love' he uses definitions crafted by Paul Tillich.
Tillich defines power as "the drive of everything living to realize itself, with increasing intensity and extensity."So power in this sense is the drive to achieve one's purpose, to get the one's job done, to grow. He defines love as  "the drive toward the unity of the separated" So love in this sense is the drive to reconnect and make whole that which has become or appears fragmented. (p.2, Power and Love)
Kahane then argues further in the book that love can only have a nurturing and positive effect if it comes with power and power can only achieve if it comes with love.
In the book the author explains that the seemingly stark contrast of those two concepts is actually the process of a balancing act of two forces that are inter-dependent in order to bring about change. It is described as the process of learning to 'walk'. One cannot move both legs at the same time if one wants to move forward but for a fluid walking one has to move the legs one after the other.

The book's closing paragraph reads:
'How can we learn to walk with power and love? The way is long, the terrain is rough, there is no path, and there is no map. We need companions on this journey, but no one else can make a way for us. We must use both of our legs; we must put one foot in front of the other. We must step forward.'(p.140, Power and Love)
The concepts mentioned are not new but the way they are presented in the book seem to me almost like 'sense-making' of a puzzle with many pieces.

I for instance deal in my work with the concepts of 'reconciliation' and 'justice'. The complementarity described by Kahane regarding power and love fits right in when conceptualizing the inter-dependency of justice and reconciliation. We as an organisation argue that justice cannot be realised without reconciliation and vise versa in order to affect sustainable, positive change in post-war societies. Justice systems often play a crucial role in the implementation towards a democratic state and the functioning of the rule of law. Trials and court hearings regarding committed crimes during war give ordinary people a sense of justice but without reconciliation efforts throughout society peace and stability will not be reached.  A few 'fair' and 'just' trials will not satisfy all victims. Where the justice system stands for power, for institutions and for the rule of law, love comes in as the reconciliation efforts. Long lasting peace cannot be achieved if elements of reconciliation are not addressed to find a common ground that enables citizens to move forward jointly.

This short discourse to my work, just shows how those two concepts and descriptions are transferable to quite a few situations that involve change. I hope it has made you curious and created an interest in the book and work of Adam Kahane.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Money, money, money

Money is one of the most complicated topics in the world. Most of our problems and challenges are about the conflict between people who have money and people who do not. Organisations, companies and whole nations rise and fall because of it. Financial issues are also on top of the list when it comes to relationship problems and divorce. I have lately been thinking quite a bit about it...

Money has never been a topic I liked talking about neither have I ever looked out for friends/boyfriends with money. I grew up in a family where the one part of the parents lived beyond the available means hence making a lot of debts and the other one ultimately paying the debts off. In addition to those two extremes we where also taught that life has to be lived and enjoyed (within the available means). So even when the money was scarce little treats (which were not always monetary) were part of life.
So what is the effect? I'm not a big money saver, I know I have to work hard to earn it but I definitely regularly sign up for treats and the enjoyment of life.

My career decision was not at all based on the idea of 'making money' but rather on making a difference. I went into the field of development work and had during my studies the naive attitude that I will work for 'doing good' and the salary will not matter to me. Approximately eight years later and five years into the job market, my views have changed. I'm still in the same line of work though.

I have laid my guilt about earning a salary to rest. This has been the most difficult to do living in a society where the majority of the population is poor. I have come to the conclusion: their lives will not change if I earn no money.  It might sound tough but this conclusion is the outcome of a long inner journey. I came to terms with something that most of you might have discovered long time ago - money itself is not bad or dirty - it's the people who abuse or misuse it or waste it.

Have I used the institution of a credit card and overdraft? Yes I did. Did I spend money that I should have saved? Yes I did. BUT I do not regret it. Throughout the years I tried to stuck to my principle to earn honest money, to pay taxes (I at least try my best to comply) and to not do a job that exploits other people. I contribute money or my own time to initiatives which I think are making a difference and empowering people rather then creating dependency. I try to be responsible and 85% rational when spending or giving money.

I have a healthier attitude towards money today. I can honestly say: It is nice to have money to do the things in life that I like doing. It is great and empowering to make conscious decisions about how to spend money like for example changing my bank if the rates and services are too high at my current bank or changing my car insurance because another company offers a better rate. And most exciting to me has been to discover opportunities to earn money with things that I enjoy doing. Being open to money has also opened up new opportunities to make money work for me. Another plus has been to have someone at my side that thinks similar.

My conclusion: me having a healthier relationship to money sets me free and assists me in focusing on the values that I really want to live for - the people I'm close to, appreciating the moment, trying to be the difference I would like to see and living life to its fullest.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What I took home from the 'Women in philanthropy network lunch'

I recently attended a 'Women in Philanthropy network lunch'. I'm always very critical of organised 'only women' events. Not that I don't like to hang out with 'my girls' alone but I prefer gender mixed events. But I was intrigued by this idea of meeting with like-minded individuals and a lunch in good company can never do harm.
The lunch was held in a very lovely coffeeshop (Oways) which gave the event a nice setting. It turned out to be amazing food and amazing food for thought. The speaker was Wendy Appelbaum who can account of good amount of years in philanthropy work. 

I really like the things she shared and hence, going to share with you what I took home from the lunch. Firstly, here one of many definitions of 'philanthropy':
The word comes from Latin philanthropia, from Greek philanthrōpia, from philanthrōpos loving people, from phil- + anthrōpos human being. It describes the effort or inclination to increase the well-being of humankind, as by charitable aid or donations and/or also seen as  love of humankind in general.
Philanthropy is a old world which has in recent years gained popularity as it stands for a more developmental, self-help and sustainable approach to assistance than charity and welfare.
Considering Ms. Appelbaum's many years of involvement in philanthropic activities, she shared some general things that she believed could be important.
Firstly she emphasised the importance of integrity and honesty, basically saying, stand up for what you believe in and be comfortable in your skin.

Secondly, she said: "I'm involved in this type of work, because I believe in it and not because I feel guilty. And also because I can afford it."

Mentors are crucial in order to learn and grow; so think carefully who are your mentors in life or who could be one for you.

And lastly she presented the difference between philanthropy and charity to show why she believes in philanthropy (and not so much in charity). Philanthropy focuses on the bigger picture, finding solutions to massive social problems, empowerment and sustainability. It is all about looking into the root causes and finding solution. Philanthropy tries to look into the future and beyond tomorrow. Charity in contrast operates like band-aid for today but does not really involve the future or the long-term solution. Charity might bring quicker results and photo opportunities but a philanthropic approach will make a difference in the long-run.

Besides these great thoughts, I discovered another lovely coffee shop and had a couple of very interesting networking conversations.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Getting what you really want

Photo by Frederico Stevanin
Recent developments in my life strengthened my belief in 'sending the message out to the universe'  - as many people colloquially say- and as a result getting what I really wanted.
I don't have particular strong feelings about 'the universe' part of it, but I had many experiences where I have clearly set out a goal, a wish or a dream and it became reality. Sometimes it even became so true/real that I was surprised by the beauty of my own dream.
Many situations have shown me that we live in a place of possibilities (reminding me of Benjamin Zander's message in the Art of Possibilities). 
So how does it work? I try to listen carefully to myself and get the message about what I really want and what I'm really passionate about. 
Once I'm clear about my idea I normally write it down or I at least talk about it with someone. I let my mind wonder and explore all the possibilities that are hidden within the idea itself. As a result  my whole being and doing becomes about the wish and probably also directs my actions towards the achievements of the dream so that my dream can become reality.
The 'universe' or the place where one sends the message out to has something divine. For me it comes very close to my Christian believes and ideas I find in the Bible. 
I do believe that we often underestimate the power of our mind and our subconsciousness when we think, act and articulate what we want. 

I can say I am achieving  what I want in life. As mentioned above, I am still taken by surprise when my dreams become reality and I am deeply thankful.  What I am trying to do though is to make 'thinking possibility' my way of living. 
Photo by Tungphoto
Don't get me wrong. It is not always easy. The problem is that the message I send out has to come clearly from me as a whole person. So, if I say something, but think something different and actually am not honest to myself about the wish, it doesn't work because confusing dreams don't have the power of becoming reality. They can even be counter productive. I also have to do quite a bit of 'housekeeping' and cleaning up of internal challenges and blockages in order to clearly know what I want. This opens up space for creativity and ideas - dreams.
I also believe is one is not clear in formulating the idea it shows doubt that the dream is actually possible and results in non-realisation. Only once the believe in the possibility is greater than the doubt an idea can become true.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mother's day

The overload with mother's day adds and gift ideas makes me think about the meaning of the day. 

I do remember that my mom used to say 'I don't want flowers or anything on mother's day but rather appreciate me throughout the year.' But then on the day, when the flowers were put on the table, my mom still had a big smile on her face and when she received a special treat, she took it with great pleasure. She deserved it, of course. Most mothers do. I do think it is not about fancy gifts but a gesture of appreciation for the mother. I do agree that honouring and celebrating mothers around the world for their compassion, dedication and care are important - and not only on mother's day.
I think I have remembered to show my mom appreciation more times then just on that one day (Mom, I hope you agree) but I think it is a bit like Valentine's day. Most people will tell you that they think it is a commercialized day and there is no value in it. When they receive something on the day and/or are treated, they fully enjoy it. When they don't get anything - and this refers specifically to women - they feel this pinch of envy towards their colleague, friend or sister who got something. I think mothers feel the pinch also a bit on that day if no-one remembers. So, don't forget to give her at least a call on the day, she will appreciate it.

On those special days (mother's, father's, Valentine's etc.day), I also think of those people who have lost the special person to celebrate with. I find it tragic that every street corner, every coffee shop and even every TV show screams at them 'the person to celebrate today is gone'. I don't want to make this day a morbid occasion for those who do celebrate it. Maybe make another call to your friend whose special someone is not around anymore.

Below a link to a poem that I wrote some months back for my mom:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Life and death - live the moment

Death is not really something I like to hear or talk about but is an integral part of our lives. Just today, I received an email from a good friend telling me that his closest friends and me about the passing of his mother. As I am far away from where he lives, I was not aware of her sickness and the email came quite as a shock to me. I guess many of us have experienced moments like this one.

When I find myself confronted with a sad message of the significance to appreciate life. It is those moments when I remember that the essentials in life are very simple: living in the present, appreciate every moment of your life, be at peace with your environment and the people around you. I often find myself caught up in unimportant things, worry about the superficial and forget to focus on relationships and people rather then things.
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