Everything Goes Around

In 1892 at Stanford University, an 18-year-old student was struggling to pay his fees. He was an orphan, and not knowing where to turn for money, he came up with a bright idea. He and a friend decided to host a musical concert on campus to raise money for their education.

They reached out to the great pianist Ignacy J. Paderewski. His manager demanded a guaranteed fee of $2000 for the piano recital. A deal was struck, and the boys began to work to make the concert a success.

The big day arrived. But unfortunately, they had not managed to sell enough tickets. The total collection was only $1600. Disappointed, they went to Paderewski and explained their plight.

 They gave him the entire $1600, plus a cheque for the balance $400. They promised to honor the cheque at the soonest possible.

“No,” said Paderewski. “This is not acceptable.” He tore up the cheque, returned the $1600 and told the two boys: “Here’s the $1600. Please deduct whatever expenses you have incurred.

 Keep the money you need for your fees. And just give me whatever is left”. The boys were surprised and thanked him profusely. It was a small act of kindness. But it clearly marked out Paderewski as a great human being.

Why should he help two people he did not even know? We all come across situations like these in our lives. And most of us only think “If I help them, what will happen to me?” The truly great people think, “If I don’t help them, what will happen to them?” They don’t do it expecting something in return. They do it because they feel it’s the right thing to do.

Paderewski later went on to become the Prime Minister of Poland. He was a great leader, but unfortunately when the World War began, Poland was ravaged. There were more than 1.5 million people starving in his country, and no money to feed them. 

Paderewski did not know where to turn for help. He reached out to the US Food and Relief Administration for help. He heard there was a man called Herbert Hoover — who later went on to become the US President. Hoover agreed to help and quickly shipped tons of food grains to feed the starving Polish people. A calamity was averted. 

Paderewski was relieved.

He decided to go across to meet Hoover and personally thank him. When Paderewski began to thank Hoover for his noble gesture, Hoover quickly interjected and said, “You shouldn’t be thanking me Mr. Prime Minister. You may not remember this, but several years ago, you helped two young students go through college. I was one of them.”

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The thief and the beggar

Once upon a time in ancient India, a thief running away from guards noticed a beggar sleeping in a dark alley. He secretly put the small but priceless piece of jewelry he had just stolen into the pocket of the beggar. He then ran away, intending to come back and steal from the beggar after he outran the guards.

Overnight, the thief was accidentally killed during a struggle with the guards. The beggar was now a rich man. In his pocket, he had enough wealth to live comfortably for life, but he never once checked his own pocket, so he never knew. He lived the rest of his life as a beggar.

You never know what you will find when you look within—there may be hidden treasures.

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I Play the Music

“If you sit down and listen
I’ll play you a song
But I’d probably play anyway
I play the music
I play the music”

These are the first few lines of the song, I Play the Music. I wrote the song with my good friend Mark Renburke when we were playing together in an Irish band called The Rising Pints. We were playing lots of gigs in crowded bars. Sometimes people listened closely – sometimes people didn’t seem to listen at all. But you know, we played the music, yes we played the music – that’s what we did. For some people in the pubs, we were the focal point of the evening. For others, we were just a background for the fun and talking. And that’s fine, too. Because the music doesn’t always have to be at the center. Sometimes, the music is just the background that makes the rest of our life so much richer.
This photo shows Mark and I playing together at my wedding in Canada about six years ago.

Although we never properly recorded the song I Played the Music together, we released several CDs together including Another Round and Charm, and we are currently talking about a new Rising Pints CD.
[product ID=95] [product ID=99]
In the musical, Jukebox Paradise, this song is played by two characters known as the buskers. The buskers sit on the seawall in Hilo, Hawaii and play the song while two young people talk nearby. It is a beautiful moment in the show. Again the music is the focal point for a moment, and then it provides a background for a lovely moment of courting. Along with Busker #1 (the lovely Sarah Mulvey), I appear in Jukebox Paradise as Busker #2, and as the song says, we play the music, we play the music.

     Jukebox Paradise, the musical

Jukebox Paradise features the music styles of the late 1950s and early 1960s – think of the sounds of Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry and you’ll understand that this is not complicated music. It’s simple old-time rock and roll played by great musicians, and it sounds great. These musicians didn’t have the amazing technology of today’s studios and live stages. They just went out there and played great music live, night after night. If you asked Buddy Holly or Chuck Berry what they did, they would probably answer, “I play the music, yeah, I play the music.”
Both in the 1960s and today, the music industry generally presents us with much more constructed music and bands. For example, the popular Japanese group, AKB 48, aren’t really of the same breed as Buddy and Chuck. Without any disrespect to the young ladies in the group, they probably haven’t been selected solely on their musical talents. Buddy Holly was pretty darned good on a stage or in a yard playing guitar and singing guitar without the benefit of costumes, lights, makeup and pitch correction. He played the music.

Jackson Browne has a great song, Just a Little Bit Longer, in which he describes the end of a gig and the roadies are packing up all the gear. He pays tribute to the roadies in a beautiful description, thanking them for putting away the folding chairs and getting the trusses up the ramps. He calls the roadies  “the champs”, and then he sings:

“But when that last guitar’s been packed away,
You know that I still want to play
Just make sure you’ve got it all set to go
Before you come for my piano”

Because Jackson Browne plays the music, yes he plays the music. You can strip away everything else and that’s what he does – he plays the music, and he sure does it well. If you don’t know his music, get listening as soon as you finish reading this post (and buy your tickets)!
The wonderful songwriter, David Gates, expresses the same feeling in the song, Guitar Man.

“Then the lights begin to flicker
And the sound is getting dim
The voice begins to falter
And the crowds are getting thin
But he never seems to notice
He’s just got to find
Another place to play”

The Guitar Man keeps searching for another place to play. Of course he does. He plays the music. Yes, he plays the music.

Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry

I do various things in my life. I’m a teacher and a researcher and a writer and an NLP trainer and a hypnotherapist and various other things. I enjoy doing all of these things and get a lot out of all of them. However, it’s when I play the music that I usually feel most myself – it’s one of the times in my life when I feel like I’m really in the right place at that moment. I’m no Chuck Berry or Buddy Holly, but it makes me feel right. It’s nice to have an audience sometimes. It’s nice to play alone sometimes. As the song says, if you sit down and listen, I’ll play you a song, but I’d probably play anyway.
I believe that everyone probably has things like this – things that makes us feel right, as if we are actually really alive. For you, it’s probably not playing music – it might be cooking, or it might be running, or it might be teaching, or gardening or talking to your friends. And of course, it doesn’t have to be one single thing – it might be lots of different things that make you feel alive, and that’s great. In the concept of the Hero’s Journey, Joseph Campbell calls it “finding your bliss”. I reckon that we probably all have lots of ways to find that bliss, that feeling of being alive, but some of them are probably more powerful than others for you. Every time I play the music, I feel a little of that, probably not as much as Buddy Holly, but you know, we all do what we can. And probably doing more of those things that make us feel alive is a good thing, so it is worthwhile trying to figure out what they are.
When I wrote I Play the Music with Mark, there was a bizarre moment in which the exact same words came out of both of our mouths at exactly the same moment. We were so in sync at that moment that we had somehow both produced the same lines that eventually became the final verse:

“Now nothing but smoke
And silence remain
Of all that’s been said and been sung
Where I played the music
I play the music”

Because in the end, of course, the show finishes and the audience goes home, and we are left with just ourselves and whatever it is that we do. As for me, I think I’ll go home and play the music!
I look forward to seeing you all at Jukebox Paradise. Tickets are selling out quickly.

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Come Home Again

jukeboxparadiseflierIn the show, Jukebox Paradise, Deloris Keller sings the song Come Home Again. In the story, this song was a big hit during World War II and far away in the thick of the action, a wounded soldier named Fred is listening to the radio and the sound of her voice. It is this song, coming from so far away, that gives Fred the will to survive and to eventually come back home and build a new life.

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Joy of Soy

The other day, I was reading an interesting recipe that involved soy yogurt. I was about to pass on because soy yogurt struck me as one of those hard-to-get ingredients. There is always at least one of them in every recipe in the cookbooks that my sister gives me. That, of course, is because our average Japanese supermarket is designed to fulfill the needs of Japanese cookbooks rather than Western cookbooks. Fair enough.
So I was giving up on the recipe when it occurred to me that

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PANSIG Conference

This weekend, I’m presenting at the JALT PanSig conference in Nago, Okinawa. The theme of the conference is Innovations in Education. And we definitely need some innovations in education throughout the world. I’ve been reading and enjoying Ken Robinson’s book, Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education. It’s a great book by a well-informed writer who is also blessed with a sense of humour. Compared to some writing about education, this one is like watching Comedy Central. Hopefully, we will be sharing lots of ideas at the conference which follow along the same lines as Robinson’s suggestions.
Both of the PanSig presentations that I’m involved in are based on on-going research and teaching that I’ve been carrying out with various people over the last few years. Both are quite influenced by NLP. Both projects are also bringing more personalization and creativity into the classroom, two characteristics that I increasingly view as essential to real learning as I get older.
On Saturday at 1pm, I’ll be presenting with Ben Backwell about our course for helping university students to set and achieve goals. Then, on Saturday at 3pm, Sarah Mulvey and I will be doing a poster presentation on helping students to use more sensory language in their writing and speaking.

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Thinking about Words #1 – Financial Security

Today I was thinking about financial security and recognized that somehow I felt a little uncomfortable with the term. This surprised me because logically it makes a lot of sense to me and obviously everyone can benefit from financial security in all kinds of ways.
However, every time I said ‘financial security’ to myself, I felt a slight twinge of stress in my shoulders and over the years I have learned that this kind of message from our somatic mind, or body or unconscious or whatever you want to call it, is generally worth listening to.
So I started playing with some metaphors and images in my mind and the word ‘security’ immediately brought up the image of a castle protected by a moat, a great gate and knights patrolling. The archers are always ready to launch a long-distance volley of deadly arrows on anyone approaching who looks dangerous. Inside, the king of the castle and the land, is living in ‘security’, protected by the water and walls and strong men.

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The Drought

Once, in a faraway country there was a drought. There had been no rain for days. No rain for weeks. No rain for months. And the land was dry, dry. And hard and cracked and brown and dusty. And the sun beat down relentlessly. And the heat was unbearable. Like living in an oven. Impossible to breathe. And everywhere the dust. On the ground. In the air. On your skin. In your eyes. In your throat. Suffocating dust.
And the plants were dying. Changing from green through yellow to brown, they withered and died. And the animals were starving: the cattle, the sheep, the pigs, the goats – getting thinner and thinner and thinner … and dying. And the people were starving too, for there was nothing to eat. And the drought went on and on and on.
So one day; all the men went into the temple to pray for rain. In the sweltering heat they got down on their knees on the hard, dusty ground and they prayed and they prayed and they prayed for rain. But still there was no rain.
And so another day, all the women went into the temple to pray for rain. In the sweltering heat they got down on their knees on the hard dusty ground and they prayed and they prayed and they prayed for rain. But still there was no rain.
And then one day, a little girl went up the steps to the temple. She was about nine and she was wearing a dirty yellow dress that was torn. Her feet were bare and her legs and arms were dusty. Her long hair was tangled and in a mess. There was dirt on her face. And up she went up the steps of the temple, to pray for rain. But do you know what she had with her? She had with her an umbrella. Not a posh umbrella. A scruffy old broken umbrella. But an umbrella just the same. And she skipped into the temple and got down on her knees and put her umbrella on the ground beside her and she prayed and she prayed and she prayed for rain.
And do you know what? When she came out of the temple, it was raining.

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Less training in 2016

In 2016, I’ll be doing less NLP and hypnosis training. 2015 was a great year where we completed the full NLP 20 day practitioner certification course. From 2017, we will be doing more training again, but for 2016, I’ll be focusing on research to complete several books that are in the pipeline. It’s also the year of Jukebox Paradise, a musical that has been in my head for over 20 years and that will finally be staged in November 2016. Looking forward to a great year and then getting back to more training in 2017.

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The Snake

Some cowherd boys used to tend their cows in a meadow where a terrible poisonous snake lived. Everyone was on the alert for fear of it.
One day a brahmachari was going along the meadow. The boys ran to him and said; ‘Revered sir, please don’t go that way. A venomous snake lives over there.’ ‘What of it, my good children?’ said the brahmachari. ‘I am not afraid of the snake. I know some mantras.’ So saying, he continued on his way along the meadow. But the cowherd boys, being afraid, did not accompany him.
In the mean time the snake moved swiftly toward him with upraised hood. As soon as it came near, he recited a mantra, and the snake lay at his feet like an earthworm. The brahmachari said: ‘Look here. Why do you go about doing harm? Come, I will give you a holy word. By repeating it you will learn to love God. Ultimately you will realize Him and so get rid of your violent nature.’
Saying this, he taught the snake a holy word and initiated him into spiritual life. The snake bowed before the teacher and said, ‘Revered sir, how shall I practise spiritual discipline?’ ‘Repeat that sacred word’, said the teacher, ‘and do no harm to anybody.’ As he was about to depart, the brahmachari said, ‘I shall see you again.’
“Some days passed and the cowherd boys noticed that the snake would not bite. They threw stones at it. Still it showed no anger; it behaved as if it were an earthworm. One day one of the boys came close to it, caught it by the tail, and, whirling it round and round, dashed it again and again on the ground and threw it away. The snake vomited blood and became unconscious. It was stunned. It could not move. So, thinking it dead, the boys went their way.
Late at night the snake regained consciousness. Slowly and with great difficulty it dragged itself into its hole; its bones were broken and it could scarcely move. Many days passed. The snake became a mere skeleton covered with a skin. Now and then, at night, it would come out in search of food. For fear of the boys it would not leave its hole during the day-time. Since receiving the sacred word from the teacher, it had given up doing harm to others. It maintained its life on dirt, leaves, or the fruit that dropped from the trees.
About a year later the brahmachari came that way again and asked after the snake. The cowherd boys told him that it was dead. But he couldn’t believe them. He knew that the snake would not die before attaining the fruit of the holy word with which it had been initiated.
He found his way to the place and, searching here and there, called it by the name he had given it. Hearing the teacher’s voice, it came out of its hole and bowed before him with great reverence. ‘How are you?’ asked the brahmachari. ‘I am well, sir’, replied the snake. ‘But’, the teacher asked, ‘why are you so thin?’ The snake replied: ‘Revered sir, you ordered me not to harm anybody. So I have been living only on leaves and fruit. Perhaps that has made me thinner.’
The snake had developed the quality of sattva; it could not be angry with anyone. It had totally forgotten that the cowherd boys had almost killed it.
The brahmachari said: ‘It can’t be mere want of food that has reduced you to this state. There must be some other reason. Think a little.’ Then the snake remembered that the boys had dashed it against the ground. It said: ‘Yes, revered sir, now I remember. The boys one day dashed me violently against the ground. They are ignorant, after all. They didn’t realize what a great change had come over my mind. How could they know I wouldn’t bite or harm anyone?’
The brahmachari exclaimed: ‘What a shame! You are such a fool! You don’t know how to protect yourself. I asked you not to bite, but I didn’t forbid you to hiss. Why didn’t you scare them by hissing?’