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Terry Malloy, a former middle-weight boxer, (played by Marlon Brando), speaks to his brother, Charlie, in the back of their car in the 1950s movie, On the Water Front, it is clear that his reflections express regret for not taking more risks during the first half of life.

Terry now works at the docks of Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), the corrupt boss who exploits the desperation of day laborers. What Terry sees at the docks repulses him.

In an economically-depressed environment, much like our own climate, many are out of work, more gather by the docks each morning hoping to secure work for that day than can be hired, placing Johnny Friendly and his forces in a position to capitalize on their hungry situation. Those who complain of the working conditions or wages one day don’t work the next day, or are placed in harm’s way. Consequently, most tolerate being abused.

Still, Terry doesn’t see how he might make a bigger contribution in this situation than he ever could as a famous boxer—one who sought his own fame and profit over a meaningful life. When our value depends on making an impression rather than contributing great things in our community, we can grow dispirited, without heart and hope.

Here’s an example of the conversation of egoic-regret, rancor, blame and his current feelings of ordinariness.

Charlie: “Look, kid, I – how much you weigh, son? When you weighed 168 pounds you were beautiful. You coulda been another Billy Conn, and that skunk we got you for a manager, he brought you along too fast.”

Terry: “It wasn’t him, Charlie, it was you! Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, ‘Kid, this ain’t your night. We’re going for the price on Wilson.’ You remember that? ‘This ain’t your night!’ My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charlie, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn’t have to take them dives for the short-end money.”

Charlie: “Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.”

Terry: “You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charlie.”

Though this is a work of fiction, it has great resonance with many of us. Sometimes we blame others for our despair or resign ourselves to the smallest version of ourselves to avoid embarrassment, failure, discomfort or ridicule.

Clients in search of life direction (especially after age forty) often wonder what they might have been had they only applied themselves in school or after college. Instead, they chose the easier, softer, safer way; the way of their peers or the “familiar” way—the choices their family-of-origin thought was more impressive or worse, practical.

Famous dancer Martha Graham reminds us that we must listen to our deepest calling, the truth of who we are and bring this authenticity (our being) into the world of doing. She writes,

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique…. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” ~ Martha Graham

Before we can affirm, even authorize the next stage in our lives, we need to affirm the first half, no matter what choices we have made or have not made when we were younger.

So many of us find ourselves moving as fast as bumble bees in search of honey–seeking that golden ring of “better than the present.” Pausing and reflecting, as Socrates reminds us to do for a “life worth living,” can be a way to turn around unrewarding habits of regret and despair for creating a more enlivening future.

It’s especially heart-warming—especially on Labor Day—to know that Terry, eventually wakes up to his true potential. He comes to see that his struggle for fame could morph into something more useful not only for himself but for those around him. He uses his heart to give him the guts to organize his peers to stand up to their corrupt bosses thus enabling them all to receive better working conditions and more-adequate pay.

How might we turn our lives, and our sites for income, toward a more worthy and rewarding focus? Don’t we all have “bigger fish to fry” than our own personal profit/ego?

It can be a challenge to think of the good of the whole when we’re feeling financially desperate or personally despairing about a less-than-ideal past. My motto is much like the book by Martha Sinetar, Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow. I say, Do What You Love to do for others, the Money Will Follow.

What you love to do for others needn’t be a form of martyrdom. As Harold Thurman Whitman says: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive!”

What do you love to do for others that brings you the most joy? Do that and I promise you a rich and enlivening future beyond your wildest dreams.

Keep your mind open, experiment, and let me know how it goes. If you need my support to hang in there in this experiment, please contact me and we’ll see what we can create together.

Life Design Unlimited

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Is the right brain truly a sight for invention?

Is the right brain truly a site for invention?

To assess your individual or corporate viability in the current economy, ask yourself three questions:

1. Can what I do be done cheaper overseas?
2. Can what I do be done faster by a computer?
3. Am I offering something that satisfies the nonmaterial wants of an abundant age?

If your answer is anything other than “no”, invest some time in Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind. Even those who can answer “No” will extract value from the stories, methodology and commentary of a broad range of innovative people and organizations including GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, product innovation and design consultancy IDEO, MIT’s Nicolas Negroponte, writer and social commentator Pat Kane and designer Karim Rashid. Although the causal premises are well established, Pink’s research and perspective is both uniquely personal and broadly applicable.

True to our times, A Whole New Mind is a bad news-good news story. The bad news for analytical types including accountants, engineers, lawyers and MBAs is that the primacy of the knowledge worker is a thing of the past. The Industrial Age is history; our challenge is to how to thrive in what Pink terms the Conceptual Age. From a marketability standpoint, there has been a shift in valuation from left-brain or systematic thought to right brain or empathetic thought. What is currently in demand is an integrative perspective that is “high concept” (integrative) and “high-touch” (empathetic).

The good news is that the high-value abilities of the 21st century are not necessarily a function of one’s IQ. They are fundamentally human attributes that can be cultivated. The essence of this book is the why and how of cultivating A Whole New Mind.

To put this shift in context, Pink documents how three socioeconomic factors–abundance, Asia and automation–are transforming both the nature of work and society. Abundance has enabled a shift in the hierarchy of needs from material accumulation to higher criteria such as beauty, emotion and meaning. Asia is a generic reference to outsourcing and off-shoring knowledge work to high-aptitude/low-cost countries including China, Hungary, India, the Philippines, Russia–anywhere but Europe and North America. A 2003 Reuters report noted that “one out of ten jobs in the U.S. computer, software and information technology industry will move overseas in the next two years [by 2008].

One in four IT jobs will be off-shored by 2010. Finally, technology has rendered those activities reducible to a series of processes virtually obsolete. These factors are driving a transformation of the entire value creation process. To quote Pink, “In an age of abundance, appealing only to rational, logical and functional needs is woefully insufficient–mastery of design, empathy, play and other seemingly soft aptitudes is now the main way for individuals and firms to stand out in a crowded marketplace.”

According to Pink, achieving professional success and personal satisfaction in the Conceptual Age is dependant on our ability to deploy six essential aptitudes or “senses”: design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning. For maximum impact, we will need to complement L-Directed reasoning with the six essential R-Directed aptitudes to yield a holistic mind.

To highlight the difference in the two perspectives, Pink poses the dynamic this way: “Not just function but also DESIGN. Not just argument but also STORY. Not just focus but also SYMPHONY. Not just logic but also EMPATHY. Not just seriousness but also PLAY. Not just accumulation but also MEANING.” Karim Rashid captures the essence of this sensibility in his exhortation to “Think extensively, not intensively.”

This is not a theoretical book; it’s a call to action. The emphasis throughout is on maximizing your personal impact. The Portfolio sections at the end of each of the “six senses” chapters provide multiple options for assessment and application. References range from texts to tests, hands-on exercises to meditative explorations–in short, something for everyone regardless of brain dominance.

For example, the “Channel Your Annoyance” exercise in the Design section is an effective creative outlet for venting frustration with everything from ads to web site usability. Pink’s participation in a “Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain” class is proof of effectiveness: the difference between his before and after portraits is astonishing. For a common sense approach to empathy, apply IDEO’s Learn, Look, Ask and Try methodology.

Finally, as an acid test, the 20/10 test in the Meaning section is spot-on: if you had $20 million in the bank or only 10 years to live, would you live your life differently? That is, indeed, the pivotal question. If you would live your life differently, this book is a kick-start. The final point in Rashid’s 50-point guide to life is “Here and now is all we got.” A Whole New Mind helps you make the most of what you got.

Find Nina Burokas online!

And, if you want a supportive and empathic kick-start on creating a more satisfying life and livelihood, checkout my website!