Happiness At Work #43 ~ highlights in this week’s collection

hands across the city painting

Happiness At Work #43

This week we feature a set of stories that look at Happiness & The City

In Building the Human City – the origins and future potential of the Human City Institute (1995 – 2002) David Clark writes:

The world, of which the city is now an essential and integral part, is one that faces a crucial choice between community and chaos. It is a choice that must be made in the context of a world which enters a new millennium facing the age-old problems of poverty, homelessness and disease…Most challenging of all, our small and fragile planet is now faced with an exploding world population and the ultimate destruction of a life- sustaining environment…

[But these] problems mask a deeper challenge. Fundamentally, it is not the problems outlined above which threaten humankind most profoundly, but our inability to transform our fragmented world into a world order in which we can affirm our common humanity and ensure the future well-being of our planet…

If  civilisation is to fulfil its immense human potential, and thereby avoid the chaos which otherwise looms large, cities across the globe, from Birmingham to Baghdad, from Dallas to Delhi, from Manchester to Mexico, from London to Lahore, will need to address the task of how to become human cities. If our planet is to become the home of ‘a world community’ then the power of community to promote what is truly human has to move to the very top of the agenda. ‘This is the dichotomy of the city: its potential to brutalise and its potential to civilise’, writes Richard Rogers.  It is also the dichotomy facing our world.  

The choice is ours.

city painting

Until you have time to read David Clark’s book, I have posted more extracts you can read in:

Building the Human City – extracts from David Clark’s visionary book 

Businesspeople Meeting in Sitting Area

What should local authorities do about the happiness debate?

Councils can sustain hope within communities during difficult times

The Human City Institute’s Signs of a human city study is opposed pessimism, and includes the call for “a place alive with the energy of hope, which enables imagination and creativity to flourish and looks for the revitalization of every aspect of its corporate life.

Although wealthy places retain such aspirations, it might seem hard to believe that many others can join them. Even incremental progress could be thought too hard to achieve, not least because the practical steps towards such a goal are hard to discern. Some useful insights are found in research on psychology.

In his 2011 book Flourish, Martin Seligman emphasises that strong and lasting wellbeing for individuals goes beyond a temporary upbeat mood. It requires positive social relationships, a sense of meaning to life, a sense of accomplishment, and the ability to engage deeply with tasks. In other words, wellbeing is not a luxury; nor is hope.

The key question is whether local authorities have any ways to bolster those attributes among their populations. My answer (on the basis of various innovations that have been tried out in the UK and elsewhere over the past decade) would be yes, though there is not one simple route to success.

Pedestrian Warning Signs

The pursuit of happiness: contentment should be a government priority

An index exploring wellbeing across local authorities raises the question of happiness, but how should the results guide policy?

Ironically enough, Chancellor George Osborne delivered his budget on the UN-designated International Day of Happiness. Despite 1p off beer duty, there was little to cheer for those of us who want to create a society where happiness, or subjective wellbeing as economists prefer to label it, is at the centre of policy making.

Measurement of happiness and wellbeing, what underpins them, and how they change over time are core elements of the Human City Institute (HCI) thinktank research programme. We aim to publish an updatable “human city index” for all local authorities in England by May 2013 to inform the happiness debate.

As a starting point to understanding what constitute more “human” cities, HCI has chronicled a growing body of evidence about the importance of happiness and wellbeing to social and economic policy.

The government has also shown an interest in what factors influence happiness in our society; the previous administration set up the Whitehall Wellbeing Group, while the coalition has established the General WellBeing survey to sit alongside GDP as an indicator of success.

While much of the debate around happiness and wellbeing is novel, interest in these concepts goes back much further. Eudaimonic happiness originates from ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle and focuses on the concept of a “life well lived”. The US was, of course, the first country to codify the pursuit of happiness in its constitution.

Studies comparing richer countries point to the importance of inequality of wealth and income in determining happiness and wellbeing. Countries with relatively narrow inequalities, such as Sweden, tend to express higher levels of happiness than those with relatively high inequalities. In contrast, politicians put more emphasis on personal relationships, volunteering, community life and psychological interventions to enhance happiness and wellbeing.

Green spaces boosts wellbeing of urban dwellers – study

Parks, gardens and green space in urban areas can improve the wellbeing and quality of life of people living there, says a University of Exeter study.

Dr Mathew White and colleagues at the European Centre for the Environment and Human Health found that individuals reported less mental distress and higher life satisfaction when they were living in greener areas.

This was true even after the researchers accounted for changes over time in participants’ income, employment, marital status, physical health and housing type.

Beth Murphy, information manager at the mental health charity Mind, said: “For people living busy lifestyles in densely populated areas, being able to get outdoors and access green space is a great way to escape the stresses of day-to-day life.

“Our research has shown that 94% of people who took part in outdoors ‘green exercise’ said it benefited their mental health and can have huge impacts on physical health.

city and flower garden

Parks Pay Off: Green Cities Boost Happiness

Avoid the concrete jungle: A new study finds that people who live in cities with more green space feel better than those surrounded by stone and steel.

In fact, the well-being boost associated with green space is equivalent to one-third the jump in well-being people get from being married and to one-tenth of the extra life satisfaction derived from being employed versus jobless, according to a study to be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science…

A Design Revolution That Could Lift Humanity

Studies show that fractals mimicking natural forms can improve our health and wealth.  These findings have major implications for how we design our spaces, Lance Hosey writes in his new book The Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Design.

In iconic nature scenes, one shape is ubiquitous: the tree. Based on evolutionary biology’s findings about innate human preferences for savanna-like environments, Judith Heerwagen and other psychologists have focused on tree images as signals of refuge that offer the potential for shelter, shade, and nourishment. Trees and other vegetation have inspired the art and architecture of every culture throughout history, which suggests their universal appeal. One species in particular, the Acacia tortilis, dominates the African savannah, where its silhouette emblazoned on the human retina for thousands of millennia, and research verifies that people are drawn to its shape–broad, spreading canopies and branches close to the ground. In a study by Richard Coss and his colleagues, a diverse group of preschool children, regardless of nationality, background, or experience, consistently chose acacia-like trees as the most inviting, offering the greatest feelings of security. In a 2000 experiment conducted by Heerwagen and others for furniture manufacturer Herman Miller, people sitting at desks decorated with acacia images scored better in memory and problem-solving tests. So the acacia isn’t just visually pleasing–it actually elicits a physiological response. What’s so magical about this tree?

Acacia Tree - iStock_000001374025XSmall

Stressed At Work? Add a Daily Dose of Green

Is your office bad for your health and well-being? Unfortunately, a growing body of scientific evidence says yes.

The modern workday pose — fingers on keyboard, slight slouch, glassy eyes fixed on glowing screen, bathed in unnatural light – can drain vitality, happiness and creativity. Designed to maximize efficiency, this sterile setup actually reduces productivity and job satisfaction.

In fact, modern workplaces are the main reason adults now spend about 9.3 hours a day sitting. Medical journal The Lancet estimates this unprecedented level of inactivity is causing 5.3 million deaths a year worldwide, similar to smoking – prompting the Harvard Business Review to suggest “Sitting is the smoking of our generation.”

The good news is that researchers have built an increasingly persuasive case for what most of us know intuitively: nature is good for us. Being regularly immersed in a natural setting can reduce stress while boosting immunity, ingenuity and energy.

As neuroscientist Marc Berman explains, adding a daily dose of green to your routine may be the best prescription for dealing with workday stress. His research shows that even simple, brief interactions with nature can improve cognitive control and mood…

Benches in a public park.


Treat yourself and take a break to luxuriate in the visual richness of Steve McCurry’s latest photo collection:

Back To Burma

I am not thesis
I am not antithesis
I am dialectic
Just a contradiction
Patched up in palimpsest.
                                 – Portion of poem by Zeyar Lynn, Burma
Translated by Ko Ko Thett


African Refugees Turn Trauma Into Theatre

A group of African refugees in the north-western Sydney suburb of Baulkham Hills is turning their experiences of the horrors of war into an entertaining story of resilience.

The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe brings together women from different parts of Africa who have ho have survived abuse, kidnappings and war.

They are now using song, dance, rap and drumming to share their stories in the hope that it will help other women deal with their trauma.

Achieving Happiness: 10 Tips for Building Resilience

It’s hard to be a human being. We’re constantly confronted by negative events, to which our brains are biologically programmed to automatically react with fear, anger, and a desire to get as far away from the problem as possible.

There are trials in our personal lives: our kids get into trouble, our parents decline into infirmity, our spending exceeds our income — the list is endless. And it’s just as bad at work where feeling overloaded is commonplace, conflict with a coworker is always looming, and our boss seems oblivious to what we need to be successful in getting our job done.

What is amazing is that, in spite of all of these challenges, some people find ways to be successful and satisfied with their lives. Positive psychologists have been studying how to survive the stress and go on to thrive in our lives. The American Psychological Association has assembled information from topnotch experts and developed 10 tips for building resilience…

Smooth Pebbles

Happiness At Work

“Happiness Becomes More and More About Being Content In Our Current Circumstances.”

Motivation is an issue that comes up frequently when you’re trying to make your life happier. How do you stick to the resolutions that you’ve decided to make?

Gretchen Rubin puts her great questions about happiness to Heidi Grant Halvorson, expert in the science of motivation and author of a new book: Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World for Success and Influence:

I think that there are so many of us who are hard on ourselves, who don’t understand why they are good at some things but not others, who are convinced that they can’t improve, and who wonder why the things that motivate other people don’t seem to work for them.   A big part of why I wanted to write Focus was to help people understand that we don’t in fact all “tick” the same way.

There are reasons why some things come more easily to you than others, reasons why being optimistic and upbeat doesn’t “work” for everyone, reasons why some of us are creative and risk-taking, and others are thorough and reliable, but it’s very hard to be both… being able to identify our own dominant motivation, helps us to not only be more effective and happy, but to be more understanding of both ourselves and others…

high angle view of a businessman and two businesswomen working in an office

When Did Work Become A Bad Word?

Have you ever noticed how when someone tells us how they’ve been really busy with work, we automatically interpret this as being a bad thing? Certainly, no one associates having a lot of work to do with sunshine, love, happiness or any other positive experience.

In many ways, this is a natural product of both our schooling and work experiences, where we’re not guided and supported to use our genius, creativity, and talents in order to do the work we should do. Rather, what is the more common experience is being funnelled through a system that puts us into neat slots like gears in a complex piece of machinery.

When it comes to work, we’ve come to accept the concept of ‘no pain, no gain’ as being the proper route to success and prosperity. That we need to tough it out in the hopes that – someday – we might finally be able to do what we want to do because we’ve ‘paid our dues’…

While the growing levels of anxiety, fear and stress we see in today’s workplaces are partly due to the prevailing uncertainties surrounding the global economy, it is also a manifestation of that disconnect between what we do and why we do it.

And it’s becoming clear as we move further into this century that this approach to our careers and lives is no longer sustainable; that we’ve reached a tipping point where people can no longer be expected to feel happy or fulfilled by working to live. Instead, we need to shift the paradigm to one where people live to work…

All that’s required is our willingness to no longer play it safe or waiting until later to commit our creativity, our passions and our dreams to that which not only creates meaning for others, but which also instills a sense of purpose and fulfilment within ourselves…

4 Conscious Choices to Stay Balanced and Happy When You’re Busy

I’m now in the process of adjusting to my decision to do new things, and I’ve realized it requires four conscious choices:

  • Recognizing my non-negotiable needs and prioritizing them
  • Setting realistic expectations about what I can do and what I can’t
  • Regularly checking in with myself to ensure my choices support my intentions
  • Learning from my emotions instead of reacting to them

If you’re also adjusting to a busier lifestyle—whether you’re working toward a dream or taking on new responsibilities at work or at home—these tips may help…

busy clocks man


Busy is Killing Leadership

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker

What is busyness? Simply put, busyness is a when we have a lot of work. It’s the drug of the 21st century. Busyness happens when we react to what’s in front of us, without stopping to consider if it matters or not. We get caught up in the urgency of the moment, soon it becomes a habit and before we know it we end up busy. We become trapped in the urgent. Leaders fall into the busyness habit when they allow weeks and months drift by, attending numerous meetings and drifting from activity to activity without stopping to consider if what they’re doing is making any difference.

One of the best ways to identify busyness is to look for instances where there is a lot of effort or activity and limited results. It’s in these areas that attention is required to manage more effectively.

  • Are you in a busyness trap?
  • What are the few major areas that define your great work?
  • What do you need to stop doing so you can give more attention to the your great work?

Women In Leadership: Breaking Free of Stereotypes

Stereotypes are, by their nature, simplistic, yet a number of labels are still attached to women in leadership. When high-powered women were asked to single out the stereotypes they most disliked, the following came up: Ice Queen; Single and Lonely; Tough; Weak; Masculine; Conniving; Emotional; Angry. The media dubbed city hedge fund boss Nicola Horlick “Superwoman,” because she successfully juggled career and a large family. The late Margaret Thatcher was often accused of being too masculine — MP Barbara Castle called her “the best man among them” (while adding she would “have enormous advantages in being a woman too”).

Sticks and stones? It depends. Media gibes may be easy to brush off, but stereotypes are harder to ignore if they create systemic bias…

Shifting stereotypes out of organizational systems is a tougher task. It will come, in part, from simply recognizing the value of traditionally feminine traits — being able to engage people, bring them along, communicate and collaborate well, and build vision while still seeing the details. Old “post-macho” models of leadership, which rely on hierarchy and control, are giving way to an approach that creates workplaces “fit for human beings,” as Gary Hamel puts it…


The Original Mindfulness Meditation

A Zen Buddhist monk guides us through the brief mindfulness meditation “Pebble for your Pocket,” based on the teachings of the famous Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, poet, and human rights activist Thich Nhat Hanh.

A counter-balance to too much busyness.  This video is very accessible even if you’ve never encountered mindfulness exercises before.



A 70 year old Creativity Technique that is still relevant today


What is most valuable to know is not where to look for a particular idea, but how to train the mind in the method by which all ideas are produced.  James Webb Young

The first principle is the notion that an idea is nothing more or less than a new combination of old elements. In other words, ideas are just remixes and combinations of old stuff.

The second principle is about what helps make new connections between old elements.  What fosters new connections is being able to see relationships between seemingly unrelated things.  To some, seeing connections may come naturally and others may have to work at training it.

Here are techniques for doing just that…

Happiness & Wellbeing

The Peaceful Mind: 5 Step Guide to Feeling Relaxed Fast

How to fight a psychological scourge of the modern world.

We worry about work, money, our health, our partners, children…the list goes on.

And let’s face it, there are plenty of things to worry about, and that’s even before you’ve turned on the news. This means that when the mind is given an idle moment, often what it seems to fill it with is worrying.

Worry can be useful if it’s aimed at solving problems but less useful when it’s just making us unhappy or interfering with our daily lives.

The standard psychological methods for dealing with everyday worry are pretty simple. But just because they’re simple and relatively well-known doesn’t mean we don’t need reminding to use them from time-to-time.  So here is a five-step plan called “The Peaceful Mind” that was actually developed by psychologists specifically for people with dementia..

If You Want To Be Happy, Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

Our culture has made it increasingly easy for us to compare ourselves to others — through FacebookInstagram, and hundreds of other technology platforms.

In a study, “Hedonic consequences of social comparison,” Sonia Lyubomirsky and her co-author Lee Ross from Stanford University looked at how happy and unhappy people respond differently to feedback, both positive and negative.

While modest comparison to other people makes for healthy competition, those who are consumed by peer comparison are simply choosing to live an unhappier life. ..

The Confidence Question

A generation after the feminist revolution, are women still, on average, less confident than men?

For decades, surveys indicated men had a higher self-esteem than women. But there is some evidence that the gap has narrowed or vanished. A 2011 study from the University of Basel based on surveys of 7,100 young adults found that young women had as much self-esteem as young men.

But I’m not sure that this classroom assertiveness carries out into the world of work, or today’s family and friendship roles. And I’m not sure we’ve achieved parity when it comes to elemental confidence. When you read diaries of women born a century or centuries ago, you sometimes see them harboring doubts about their own essential importance, assumptions that they are to play a secondary role on earth, and feelings that their identity is dependent on someone else. How much does that mind-set linger?

And…do we undervalue the talent for self-criticism the women display…?

Obviously, you want people to be assertive enough to leap forward, but you also want them to be self-aware enough to honestly evaluate themselves.  We have piles of evidence to show that people overtrust their judgment and overestimate their goodness. Also, there is no easy correlation between self-esteem and actual performance.

Maybe the self-criticism that women display is a rare skill to be harnessed and valued, at least to a degree. Maybe the self-observation talents that lead to bad feelings because we are imperfect also lead to better decision-making and better behavior for those capable of being acutely aware of their imperfections…

Tourist Sitting in Rain

Building the Human City – extracts from David Clark’s visionary book


In Building the Human City – the origins and future potential of the Human City Institute (1995 – 2002) David Clark writes:

The world, of which the city is now an essential and integral part, is one that faces a crucial choice between community and chaos. It is a choice that must be made in the context of a world which enters a new millennium facing the age-old problems of poverty, homelessness and disease…Warfare has become vastly more dangerous [and] the emergence of international terrorism, allied to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, means that no corner of the globe can any longer regard itself as secure. Virulent diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, appear on the scene just as others are apparently vanquished. Most challenging of all, our small and fragile planet is now faced with an exploding world population and the ultimate destruction of a life- sustaining environment…

[But these] problems mask a deeper challenge. Fundamentally, it is not the problems outlined above which threaten humankind most profoundly, but our inability to transform our fragmented world into a world order in which we can affirm our common humanity and ensure the future well-being of our planet…

The humanising power of community

The communal task 

A difficulty we face in seeking to harness the power of community is that, though the threat of global chaos is now easy enough to recognise, the concept of ‘community’, like a bar of soap in the shower, seems to slip from our grasp the harder we try to grab hold of it. Why is this?

The educational task

If our first task in seeking to overcome the threat of chaos is to reinstate the concept of community, our second is to move ‘learning’ to the top of the agenda.

To develop a sense of community powerful enough to prevent the chaos which threatens human civilization, we need to create social collectives that never cease learning how to enrich both their own sense of community and that of others. Our world has to become a global community made up of a multitude of social collectives which are learning communities, from institutions to small groups, if humankind is to survive and flourish in the years ahead.


If accessing and nurturing the humanising power of learning communities is a necessity for the salvation of the planet, then we urgently need to develop a style of leadership appropriate for that task.

The city as a model of the power of the learning community

Whatever we think of this massive change to the nature of human civilisation, the city is here to stay. Thus the city has become the measure of whether or not humankind will be able to live together in a world which is safe, fulfilling and harmonious. The communal quality of life within a Belfast, a Jerusalem, a Bagdad, a New York or a Kabul is a barometer of how well or badly we are doing.

If our cities fall apart, chaos will ensue.

We  opted for the word ‘human’ in the title given to the Human City Initiative because, from an academic perspective, we felt that the concept of the human had so much in common with that of the learning community that the two could be regarded as virtually synonymous. Both related to humankind’s need for a sense of security, significance and solidarity, both were about learning and both embraced the personal and corporate dimensions of human relationships. The core components of a learning community are a sense of security, significance and solidarity, learning as education and the type of leadership required to enhance these attributes.

In his final chapter 7: Liberating the power of the human city, Clark writes:

The image of the human city

What sort of city needs to become an ideal-type for global well-being? Visions are in plentiful supply. But the visions we have for cities are as much social constructs as for any other collective. Cities are what we make them. The challenge, therefore, is to ‘re-imagine’ the city in a way which can make it a communally powerful means of global transformation.

The image of the human city is one that inspires people to connect across a diversity of often divisive social boundaries, cultural, ethnic, occupational and religious. It encourages people to discover what it means to be human in not only a personal, but an interpersonal, inter-agency and city-wide way.

The building blocks of the human city as a learning community

The hearing

The hearing is an important, if temporary, form of learning community. Its essential characteristic is a visioning process which stretches the imagination, opens up new possibilities for human growth, promotes learning as education and, in conjunction with the concept of ‘human city sites,’ enables participants to develop their own innovative and creative agendas for urban revitalisation.

The  emphasis [in the hearing] is not on problem solving or addressing issues as such, but on imaginative ideas that break the mould of traditional practice and harness pent up human creativity.

This visioning process is not a once-and-for-all affair. Its purpose is not to produce a blue-print for the correction of current ills which can then be passed up (or down) the system for implementation. Its aim is more messy, yet more creative. It seeks to enthuse participants with hope for the future founded on visions which may never have been dreamed up before, and to produce an energy which only hope can generate if visions are to be turned into reality.

The Human City Institute’s hearings

The Institute’s hearings tackled the perennial problem of the raising of the hopes of participants only to dash them again. Those who met understood that the purpose was to engage in a mould-breaking and not a problem solving exercise. There was an appreciation of, and respect for the educational nature of hearings which often became journeys of discovery in themselves. Participants were genuinely surprised by the innovative nature of many of the ideas that emerged and went home excited and energised by new hopes, rather than depressed by the conviction that the enormous problems of urban life would never be solved.

The Human City Institute made a number of attempts to stimulate hearings through the use of the arts. In the early days, projects were mooted to enable people to share their visions in response to photographs which exemplified aspects of the human city, as well as projects to encourage school children to draw and paint pictures as to how they hoped Birmingham might look in the future. Discussions were also held as to whether drama could be used in the same way. Though never fully implemented, these ideas offer other ways in which citizens might be helped to bring their imagination to bear on what a human city would look like.

Hearings give visionary energy to the humanising power of the learning community. The liberation of hope brings dedication and commitment, not only to plans for the future, but to associated endeavours in the present. Nevertheless, most of the Human City Institute’s hearings necessarily remained one-off encounters and short-lived communal phenomena unless linked directly to human city sites. Building the hearings process into the life of such sites, the usual form of which is the human group, and across every sphere of city life, remains a major challenge, but also opens many creative and exciting possibilities for the future.

The human group

The power of the human group

One of the most perceptive theses advanced for the humanising power of the communal group is that of Etienne Wenger (1998, 2002). Wenger calls his groups ‘communities of practice’, these being informal collectives which can occur anywhere and at any time. They are shaped by ‘mutual engagement’, ‘a joint enterprise’ and ‘a shared culture’. Their importance lies in three main areas: their adaptability and flexibility in enabling an organisation to achieve its primary task, their capacity for ongoing learning in the fulfilment of this role, and the sense of identity and belonging they can offer their members. Wenger applies the concept of communities of practice mainly to the world of business, but argues that it has universal application.  He believes that such communities have a key role to play in the sustainability of organisations in a global economy, not least through their immediate access to and ability to process personal experiences, insights and ideas.

Wenger’s communities of practice have much in common with our human groups.

Human networks are able to promote the kind of learning which is more about ‘education’ than socialisation, knowledge and skills. Because networking paves the way for surprising experiences and innovative relationships, the mould of old ways of thinking and doing is more easily broken, and learning as a journey of discovery comes to the fore. Networking also opens up the possibility of multi-group membership. This not only enables citizens to overcome previously dehumanising divides, but can offer ‘a critical source of learning’.  Thus networking not only increases the communal energy of the human city but enriches its educational possibilities.

Human networking also offers a vital spiritual dynamic to the human city.  If a city is to reach its full human potential, then what Haughton, writing from a Christian perspective, calls an ‘exchange of life’ (the liberation of human creativity in which the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts) has to take place. Networking as a key form of human ‘connectivity’ and creativity, through which citizens are able to experience new visions and dream new dreams, has the ability to liberate spiritual energy vital for the creation of the human city.

Harnessing the communal power of the human network

For networking to reach it full potential, it must facilitate face-to-face encounters. In the human city, indirect or impersonal engagement can never suffice to enrich and enhance the life of learning communities. Therefore, if networking is to further the building of the human city, it has to provide an opportunity for people to converse on a personal level, and to engage as unique and identifiable persons in innovative and liberating ways across boundaries which have previously kept people apart.

In 1994, the Rockefeller Foundation produced its ‘Millennium Report’ based on the premise that, ‘Without communication – properly understood as dialogue, connection and engagement in the process of being a citizen and living in a community – there is no revitalisation’.  If ‘communication as engagement’ is to liberate the humanizing power of learning communities then a great deal of work remains to be done on how such communication can be achieved.

The human neighbourhood

Breaking the mould of neighbourhood regeneration

In reality, most neighbourhoods are made up of groups or constellations of groups which often relate more naturally to groups of a similar kind in neighbourhoods other than their own. Bonding on the basis of shared territory remains important and can give residents a sense of ownership of and pride in the place where they live. However, the Institute believed that the human city can only come about when local groups are able to network within and across neighbourhood boundaries in order to share ideas, experiences, skills and resources.

The human institution

Of course the social exclusiveness and injustices of urban life must be addressed. However, until it is realised that the city is not going to become fully human until the wealthy as well as the poor, the strong as well as the weak, across all sectors, are active participants in building learning communities, little will change. 

To transform institutions into learning communities requires a cultural shift of a profound and long-term kind.  

There are some signs that private sector institutions are beginning to recognise the need to espouse the qualities of the learning community. The concept of the business as ‘a learning organisation’ gathered momentum in the late ‘eighties  and, unlike certain ‘flavours of the month’ within that sector, has stayed the course remarkably well. Particularly influential here has been the pioneering work of Argyris and Schon (1978) and, a little later, of Senge (1990), with Hawkins (1991, 2000) offering further interesting insights.

Unfortunately descriptions of the learning organisation have encompassed a confusing array of organisational concepts and models, with extended lists of loosely connected features being par for the course. The private sector’s understanding of ‘learning’ has often been superficial, its pre-occupation being with what we have called instruction and training rather than ‘education’. Nonetheless, the fact that the private sector has begun to espouse the concept of the learning organisation may give some hope of the eventual emergence of the human institution within that sector.

Seeking to promote businesses as more open and inclusive systems has also been the purpose of ‘the social audit’, a venture developed in the UK by the New Economics Foundation. However, this has been taken up by only a very limited number of companies.

Despite encouraging signs of progress, the large majority of institutions within all sectors remain victims of a market-driven, competitive and often divisive culture, only employing their expertise and resources for the benefit of the city as a whole where profit, reputation or survival are at stake.

How then can the idea of institutions as learning communities, and their potential contribution to the building of the human city be made more of a reality?


The Human City Institute’s endeavours in encouraging institutions to engage in some form of visioning about what might be involved in becoming a more human institution is one example of a catalyst for change. Such visioning helped institutions to begin to recognise that, even in a market-drive economy, giving a more human face to the way they operate is not only possible, but could enhance the nature of their organisational culture, image and effectiveness. Furthermore, the very fact of engaging in the process of envisioning what it meant to be a human institution immediately engaged them in a process which is a key feature of the learning community.

Human groups and networks

Close on the heels of the importance of visioning comes the potential of communal groups and networks to promote humanising change within institutions. The fostering within institutions of a wide range of human groups as mini learning communities and, through effective networking, enabling them to share insights, ideas, skills and resources, offers genuine hope for the communal transformation of institutions.

Wegner argues that we should begin to view the nature of the institution ‘not so much as an overarching structure as … a boundary object. It connects communities of practice into an organisation by crossing boundaries. It does not sit on top; it moves in between. It does not unify by transcending; it connects and disconnects’. Where institutions undertake this kind of intermediary role, they offer to those groups associated with them a corporate identity that strengthens each group’s sense of community without constraining and cramping creativity and identity. Thus the institution as a learning community is able to enhance the humanity of the whole by providing the time, opportunity and resources for its component groups to develop a synergy which if they remained separate entities would be impossible.

However, the Human City Institute was only able to promote attempts at institutional transformation at a very tentative level and on a very limited front.  [But its] belief that the visioning process, and nurturing and connecting human groups within large institutions to help transform the latter into learning communities and, as a consequence, beginning to transform our cities into human cities, remain a very important legacy.


The human city is a holistic city. It requires the contribution of all its citizens, from the small human group to the multi-national corporation. Even if institutions begin to develop the characteristics of learning communities, real progress towards the creation of a more human urban culture will depend on their pursuing that goal collaboratively.

The contribution of the human church to the human city

That the church as an institution, along with other faith communities, often fails to recognise the unique role it could play in building the human city, and fears to enter into genuine partnership with other institutions for lack of losing its own identity, is typical of the communal dilemma facing our world. But where it stands apart and will not risk its life for the sake of the common good and the development of a new humanity, it will ‘lose its life’, as its founder once warned. The revitalisation of urban life urgently needs the ongoing contribution of the faith communities as a resource for the shaping, nurturing and practical expression of the vision of what it means, individually and collectively, to be human.

The contribution of the human school to the human city

The distinctive contribution of the school to the creation of the human city focuses on learning as education. The school seeks to demonstrate and communicate to other institutions that education is not just about the assimilation of knowledge or the acquiring of skills, but about learning which is person-centred, an open journey of discovery, risks exploring ideas and cultures not experienced before, and is concerned to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a citizen of the twenty-first century. At the same time the human school knows that unless it nourishes its life as a community, little genuine education will occur. As in the case of the church, therefore, the school needs to be seen as an institution that can help every sector to understand what it means to be human, and how to foster and harness the power of the learning community for the benefit of the city as a whole. Thus the human school should be welcomed with open arms by other institutions as a model of the learning community with a vital contribution to make to building the human city.

Cities as partners

There remains an even bigger picture. If the renewal of our cities requires a new quality of partnership between its own institutions, the future of human civilization demands a new quality of partnership between its cities. Co-operation between cities is steadily moving up the international agenda, not least across Europe where Eurocities, the European association of metropolitan cities, already has over a hundred members. Between as well as within all cities and countries, much more needs to be done to promote partnerships which embrace the private, public and voluntary sectors, which affirm the distinctive contribution of every form of urban institution (including the faith communities), and which develop the inter-city and international networking of human groups.

The communalising process  

It is imperative for any city concerned with urban renewal to move beyond what its citizens report to be their immediate needs. The mould of failed urban regeneration will not be broken until citizens and city leaders alike become much more creative in their thinking. One of the problems in the attempt to gather the views of Bristol residents about the future of their city and, indeed, of the Birmingham local authority to tap its citizens’ ideas for the development of the city at the start of a new millennium, was an inability to foster genuinely imaginative ideas.

The stress on imagination is one of the strengths of Landry’s idea of ‘The Creative City’ (Landry, 2000). As Imagine Chicago has also clearly shown, it is imagination which lies at the heart of liberating the humanising power of learning communities. Encouraging the expression of imagination not only creates vigorous participation, but energy for future action. Those involved in urban renewal need to stimulate the imagination of citizens much more creatively if the tired old patterns of community development are not simply to be repeated ad infinitum.

Accessing imagination is an ongoing process. But visions then need to be made a reality.

Visions of the future will always need adaptation in the cold light of day but, as this happens, it is important that the spark which ignited the vision in the first place is not extinguished. It needs to be recognised that nurturing a plethora human groups (wherever possible as human city sites), and enabling their visions to be worked out as humanising agendas, is the next essential stage in building the human city, a stage which requires considerable time, energy and skill, [especially] leadership.

It is essential that the process of building the human city also embraces networking. Enabling groups to engage in visioning will not get very far unless they can be connected, and thereby encouraged, supported and resourced, by means of the networking process. Such networking remains one of the greatest challenges for urban renewal programmes for, though the power of information technology is now immense, even human groups can all too easily become possessive and introverted. Enabling such groups to link and share is essential if their visioning is to lead to the emergence of human institutions and the human city. Far more time and effort needs to be given by those engaged in urban renewal to discover how human groups can be persuaded and equipped to view networking as not only beneficial to their own endeavours but also to the wider city.

Networking not only strengthens human groups as learning communities but opens up the possibility of institutions assuming a more human face. The networking of those human groups located within institutions, potentially has massive implications for the communal quality of institutional life. Yet more is needed. For only when institutions overcome their propensity for exclusivity and establish genuine partnerships with one another, will the building of the human city really get under way.


To build the human city requires a massive cultural transformation. It needs a new vision of community and of learning, as we have defined them, being placed at the heart of urban renewal. It requires a communalising process which begins at the level of the human group. It necessitates our building the city as a learning community through a range of collective social forms, within all sectors, whose ability to liberate the synergy of a shared human endeavour has hitherto been neglected. But for this cultural transformation to take place, a new style of leadership, both corporate and individual, is also required.

The leadership needed to build the human city will be committed to the principles on which the human city is founded. We have integrated these principles into our ‘Twelve Signs of a Human City’. Given such a commitment, it is the role of the community educator, above all as an intermediary agent or agency, which is of paramount importance if the human city, together with its human neighbourhoods and human institutions, is to come into being.

For a city to be a human city, ‘a new kind of professional’ is needed. The latter will be one able to work across boundaries, cultural, social and institutional, to make new and creative connections which will harness the humanising potential of urban institutions. The human city requires leaders who, as community educators, possess the skills of empathy, affirmation, negotiation, conflict resolution and reconciliation. It is a highly creative yet demanding role, at this point in time unrecognised for the abilities and wisdom needed, and not rated as a priority in an urban culture where institutions and their leaders remain as insular as ever. But without leaders equipped and resourced to undertake this boundary-spanning and cross-cultural role, both within and between institutions, no human city can be built.

The role of local government

A great deal rests on the shoulders of local government, as itself a key intermediary agency, if the style of leadership needed to harness the communal power of the human city is to be readily available.

Local government has two especially critical tasks to perform in its role as an intermediary agency. First, it needs to promote the sharing of visions and insights as to what makes a city human. Here the importance of visioning once again comes to the fore as a vital mainstream endeavour for the liberation of civic life from the domination of what is inhuman in all its diverse forms.

Local government’s second major task is to ensure that in building the human city, the insights, experiences and abilities of all its citizens are brought fully into play. This means identifying and equipping a ‘new kind of professional’, community educators, who can operate on behalf of local government as intermediary agents across sometimes divisive functional, occupational, social and cultural boundaries, in relation to all sectors and over a wide range of neighbourhoods. The importance of this type of leadership remains as yet largely unrecognised and, even where acknowledged in principle, is often resisted or neglected in practice. The departmentalism of much of local government itself has prevented the emergence of such intermediary appointments, though the need for them has been argued for some time. Without this kind of catalytic leadership, liberating and synergising the communal power of the city’s humanising communities will not be accomplished.


The practice of urban revitalisation described in this book has focused attention on ‘the local’ rather than ‘the global’. It has done so because of our conviction that the survival of our world lies in the triumph of community over chaos, and that the key to that achievement is the building of the human city in place of the inhuman city.

Though this is a global task, it will not be achieved unless we recognise that the human city is a community of learning communities, and that building such a city has to begin at every level of city life, but notably at the level of the human group. This is why much of our attention has been given to how the humanising power of the latter can be liberated in order to kick-start the transformation of urban institutions, the city itself and eventually our world. To build large, we will need to begin, but by no means end, small.

Nevertheless, if civilization is to fulfil its immense human potential, and thereby avoid the chaos which otherwise looms large, cities across the globe, from Birmingham to Baghdad, from Dallas to Delhi, from Manchester to Mexico, from London to Lahore, will need to address the task of how to become human cities. If our planet is to become the home of ‘a world community’ then the power of community to promote what is truly human has to move to the very top of the agenda. ‘This is the dichotomy of the city: its potential to brutalise and its potential to civilise’, writes Richard Rogers.  It is also the dichotomy facing our world.

The choice is ours.

Appendix 2

What the Human City Institute is striving to promote (March 1999)

  • An explosion of interest in ‘the human city’ as a new vision for a new millennium.
  • A growing recognition of the fundamental importance of the human factor in any sustainable city of the future.
  • A zeal to rediscover ‘the soul’ of the city.
  • Enthusing urban communities to ‘re-imagine’ their cities as human cities.
  • Developing new forms of ‘hearing’ as a democratic means of imagining the human city and its possibilities.
  • Actively involving ‘all kinds and conditions’ of citizen in the creation of the human city.
  • Searching out and affirming the special contribution of the faith communities to the creation of the human city.
  • Specialised groups addressing the transformation of particular aspects of city life as their distinctive contribution to the human city (e.g. the human family, the human neighbourhood, the human school, the human hospital, the human business, the human police force, the human media, etc…….).
  • Establishing self-supporting networks of ‘human city sites’ involving all sectors, crossing every neighbourhood and touching all aspects of the life of city.
  • The imaginative use of information technology to connect, sustain and develop networks of human city sites.
  • The publication of papers and articles, backed up by seminars, workshops and conferences, to stimulate new thinking about the human city at both a professional and practical level.
  • The transformation of government, locally and nationally, so that it becomes the facilitator of those seeking to build human cities.
  • The creation of ‘human city forums’, partnerships working for the creation of the human city, in cities and towns across the UK and internationally.

David Clark (Director)

Businesspeople Meeting in Sitting Area

Appendix 5
Twelve signs of a human city 

1.  A human city is committed to being a new kind of city.

~+~ A human city is a place alive with the energy of hope, enables imagination and creativity to flourish and looks for the revitalisation of every aspect of its corporate life.

~+~ It is a city which is a dynamic community of communities that offers a powerful sense of security, significance and solidarity to all its members.

~+~ It is ‘a rainbow city’ which delights in diversity and difference in pursuit of the common good.

~+~ It is a city which creates a new culture and a new language9 to embody and communicate what it means to be human.

~+~ ‘A human city enables those who share a vision of the human city to work together with others to make that vision a reality.’

2.  A human city is committed to all its citizens.

~+~ A human city is about ‘value for people’ before value for money.

~+~ It is where ‘all matter and each counts’.

~+~ It is a city where people acknowledge and respect one another, where they care and share.

3.  A human city is committed to affirming the whole of human experience.

~+~ A human city treasures the human achievements of its past, and celebrates the human endeavours of the present.

~+~ It is a city committed to human wealth creation.

~+~ It is about the fulfilment of all that it means to be human; in body, mind and spirit.

~+~ It is a city with a heart and a soul.

~+~  It is a compassionate and ‘faith-full’ city.

~+~  It is a place of fun and laughter.

4.  A human city is committed to a life-enhancing environment.

~+~  A human city gives life to those who live and work there, or visit it.

~+~  It is safe, clean and healthy.

~+~  It is a city within which people can move about easily and comfortably.

~+~  It is full of natural beauty and architectural grace.

~+~  It harnesses and uses all its resources in ways that sustain the planet.

5.  A human city is committed to social justice.

~+~  A human city recognises, repents and confronts the suffering that inhumanity causes.

~+~  It places the concerns of the poor and the marginalised high on its agenda.

~+~  It is committed to the vision of a just, peaceful and inclusive city, revitalised by forgiveness and reconciliation.

~+~  It upholds human rights and human responsibilities.

6.  A human city is committed to truth and integrity in public life.

~+~  A human city fosters a culture of trust founded on mutual respect and honesty.

~+~  It is about open, informative and straight communication within all spheres and at all levels of civic life.

7.  A human city is committed to the transforming power of the human group.

~+~  A human city is dependent on a multitude of human groups contributing in their own ways and situations to the creation of a human city.

~+~  It is a city where ‘small is beautiful’.

~+~  It values the human scale and the human touch.

~+~  It is a city with a human face.

8.  A human city is committed to being a place of lively and creative encounters.

~+~  A human city provides spaces and places where people can meet and talk.

~+~  It encourages its citizens to come together to share their experiences, stories and concerns.

~+~  It provides forums for vigorous discussion and debate about the meaning and nature of the human city.

~+~  It fosters many forms of networking which can link and connect those striving to build the human city.

9.  A human city is committed to genuine partnership.

~+~  A human city recognises that the humanity of the part and the humanity of the whole are inextricably linked.

~+~  It is a city which brings together diverse sectors (public, private and voluntary), neighbourhoods, cultures, faiths and generations in innovative and creative ways.

~+~  It is a city which fosters the commitment, empathy, tolerance and tenacity which all true partnerships require.

~+~  It is a city which works with any other city that shares its vision.

10.  A human city is committed to democratic leadership and participation.

~+~  A human city gives a voice to all who live and work there, and hears what they say.

~+~  It enables its members to participate in the decisions that affect them.

~+~  It is a city which believes in the mutual accountability of all who live and work there.

~+~  It is a city where those who lead use their power to empower others.

11.  A human city is committed to learning for living.

~+~  A human city is a learning city.

~+~  It is involved in an ongoing quest to discover what it means to be human.

~+~  It is a city which creates a multitude of opportunities for attentive listening, innovative exchanges, open dialogue, ongoing reflection and the birth of new understandings.

~+~  It is a city which provides an education for life.

12.  A human city is committed to ongoing change.

~+~  A human city is about fundamental and continuing change because its concern is the transformation of the inhuman into the human.

~+~  It is a city which never ceases to challenge and redeem those things which would destroy its humanity.

Dreamscape MP900449128

Happiness At Work #41 – highlights in this week’s edition

women leadership

This week’s collection highlights voices from across an array of different contexts who are championing  the importance of learning about happiness and resilience:

Dr Anthony Seldon: Happiness Isn’t Superficial, It’s Vitally Important

Politicians, administrators and educationalists who are shaping schools around the world are profoundly wrong in believing that exam success is the only metric of value. We are developing generations of dysfunctional and misguided products from our exam factory system.

The most risible criticism of all is that an education directed towards the discovery of happiness is superficial. Have the critics not read their Aristotle? One of our greatest priorities should be to help young people learn life skills and attitudes that are conducive to living a flourishing life and making a positive contribution to society; to help them discover that bringing happiness to others leads to a much deeper sense of fulfilment than any A grade or iphone ever could…

Resilience training helps people to tune in to their perception of situations and to learn to distinguish perception from fact. Over time, students become more aware of thinking patterns that are not helpful – which causes them excessive anxiety and procrastination, or animosity with others – and they learn to challenge those patterns of thought with evidence so that they can gain a more accurate and flexible perspective. They develop habits of mind that can help to avoid an unnecessary or unpleasant burden from emotion, or from thoughts and actions that, upon reflection, they might regret.

This isn’t superficial. In fact it couldn’t be more important, both for our young people and for society as a whole. Our education system should help children to develop the character traits that underpin a happy and meaningful life – including empathy, generosity, resilience and compassion. Because the values that our children learn today don’t just shape their future lives, they determine the destiny of our society.

Should Universities Teach Wellbeing?

Jules Evans, Queen Mary, University of London, writes…

If universities were to introduce well-being classes, they would have to be philosophically pluralist, exploring the different approaches to well-being and the good life. I also think they could be liberal, in the American sense of balancing the humanities with the sciences, balancing ethics with evidence.

Students went to Plato’s Academy, or Aristotle’s Lyceum, or Epictetus’ school in Nicopolis, precisely to learn how to flourish. When Plato founded his Academy, 2,400 years ago this year, the idea was that you brought the whole of yourself to education, not just your intellect. When did we start thinking that academic work should leave out the emotions?

Think positive

Richard Schoch on whether children should be taught how to be happy

Richard Schoch, professor of the history of culture at Queen Mary, University of London and author of The Secrets of Happiness: Three Thousand Years of Searching for the Good Life, writes in The Guardian:

Just as “one swallow does not make a springtime”, Aristotle reasoned, one pleasant day does not make a whole life happy. Which is another way of saying that we could all use some help in our search for happiness.

So, yes, there is a place for happiness in the classroom, just as there is a place for it in the home, in youth groups, in churches, in mosques, and in synagogues. Call it happiness, call it morality, call it “life skills”, the label scarcely matters. What matters is that the ideal happiness curriculum already exists, and had existed for centuries. The problem is that it has been overlooked, sometimes in the faddish pursuit of the latest scientific discovery and sometimes out of historical amnesia. Still, humanity’s accumulated wisdom about the pursuit and achievement of happiness is there for anyone who wants to learn from it.

Other highlights in this week’s collection include:

Happiness At Work

Wellbeing the ‘second revolution’ for women in the workplace

…are we now on the cusp of a second wave of this revolution? One that doesn’t require women to necessarily “lean in” as Sheryl Sandberg would argue, but rather for both genders to demand the cultural and structural changes required of their workplaces to better reflect the modern lifestyle, and create working environments that actually address that (still bizarrely forgotten about) major demographic shift that saw women enter the workforce?

This second revolution could benefit both genders. By fundamentally adjusting the way we work and defining success according to “wellbeing”, we’ll chase something more significant than a career measured by long hours and the projects we complete for an employer.

This second wave could also have us considering issues bigger than ourselves and those we know. Already, we’re seeing the benefits of collective wisdom and power, how through social media we can learn and react to the plight of women everywhere. The women who’ve pioneered and captured the key leadership positions of the past are fast becoming spokespeople for a future that better considers the economic benefits of a worldwide shift to ending discrimination and inequality, and eliminating violence against girls and women everywhere.

6 Habits of Remarkably Likable People

They’re charming. They’re genuine. And they can make an entire room full of people smile.  Here’s how they do it:

They lose the power pose.

They embrace the power of touch.

They whip out their social jiu-jitsu.

They whip out something genuine.

They ask for nothing.

They “close” genuinely.

And they accept it isn’t easy.

When you help people feel a little better about themselves – which is reason enough – they’ll like you for it.

And you’ll like yourself a little more, too…

Engaged Employees Volunteer Their Hearts, Minds, & Imaginations

How would you define great employee engagement?

What do you want it to be?

“We rent people’s hands and their backs, but they volunteer their hearts, their minds and their imaginations.”  So the question is when will people do that and when will they not? They won’t do it if they don’t believe in what you are doing. They won’t do it if they don’t believe they are being appreciated for what they do. They won’t do it if they don’t feel as though everybody else is putting forth a good effort. And they won’t do it if they feel their managers are not helping them. People engage when they believe in a purpose, feel appreciated, and have the environment to succeed.
The best and brightest talent, as well as customers, will gravitate to the organisations with the boldest promise with a robust reputation of delivering upon their engagement promise…

New Research

The Employee Power-Up’s Happiness Edge

People who feel powerful are happier, according to a recent study published in Psychological Science. Researchers found that authenticity is what connects that relationship between power and “subjective well-being”, or happiness. When you have power, your behavior can align more closely with your desires and values so that you are free to be more authentic. And when you can go about your day being more true to yourself, you feel happier…

If you’ve ever had a job that made you feel miserable — from sheer boredom, workplace abuse, having to stay in the office with nothing to do, or having to stay in the office with way too much to do — you are probably familiar with the feeling of powerlessness over the situation. Unfortunately, that kind of misery and disillusionment is startlingly common, with 70% of workers who were “not engaged” or even “actively disengaged” in their work, according to a 2012 Gallup poll.

For those of you who feel powerless at work, it’s a tough battle. Brainstorm some ways you can gain a sense of control and autonomy. Ask if you can be in charge of a minor project, lead some presentations, or start a new initiative. Round up some research on productivity to argue for a more flexible schedule. Go over and around supervisors and bosses who are overbearing or dismissive to someone (with power) who will listen to how you feel and what you want to do.

If you’re planning on sticking around, fight for your small corner by finding a path toward authenticity, autonomy, and power, and fulfillment. To thine own self, be a little truer.

Seeing Happiness In Facial Expressions, Instead Of Anger, Can Lessen Aggression

How you perceive emotions in others can have a real impact on how you feel yourself, according to a new study.

The new research, published in the journal Psychological Science, shows that training people to be biased to recognise happiness instead of anger in a facial expression can help to lower their own feelings of aggression and anger.

Last year, a study in the same journal showed that a happy facial expression – specifically, a genuine smile – can help to decrease stress by lowering heart rate after a tense event.

Happiness & Wellbeing

The Age of Wellbeing

Context is everything…

New research with thousands of people over 30 years found that while individuals did tend to experience greater wellbeing as they aged baseline levels of wellbeing were different for different age groups. What these researchers believe this shows is a response to the context that each generation grew up in.

So, for example, generations who grew up during the depression era of the 1930s shows substantially lower baseline levels of wellbeing compared to people who grew up during more prosperous times like the 1960s. All of that of course begs the question, what will the baseline wellbeing be for people who are growing into adulthood during post-GFC times of economic uncertainty? Maybe we need to do more than ponder this and as a society intervene to ensure that the wellbeing of this current generation and all generations is all that it possibly can be.

The Pursuit of Happiness: Self-Improvement

We don’t eat well, we don’t sleep well, and we don’t exercise. We rely on junk food and alcohol for entertainment and satiety. We have no free time, no health, and no peace of mind.

Who do you think is richer, actually truly richer? Who do you think is happier and more content? Who do you think leads a higher standard of living? The hospitality guy and the masseur, or us?

Kartikeya Dwivedi thinks they are. And here’s what he suggests we can do about changing things for the better…

The 4 Happiness Archetypes: Which One Are You?

In this 5-minute video, Philosopher’s Notes author, Brian Johnson, looks at a model developed by Tal Ben-Shahar (former Harvard professor, author and expert on positive psychology and leadership), that demonstrates how to be happier by embracing goals we consider to be important, while taking pleasure in the journey.


Never, Ever Give Up. Arthur’s Inspirational Transformation!

A truly inspirational video of resilience in action.

How Volatility Boosts Career Resilience: Small Fires Prevent A Big Burn

Today’s world is full of change and unpredictable disruption. Unless you take frequent, contained risks, you are setting yourself up for a major dislocation at some point in the future. Inoculating yourself to big risks requires taking small, regular risks—it’s like doing controlled burns in a forest. By introducing regular volatility into your career, you make surprise survivable.

In his inaugural post on LinkedIn, Jack Welch said there are three keys to success: authenticity, resilience, and the ability to see around corners (“to anticipate the radically unexpected”). I’m with him on the first two, but in fact, ironically, the precise reason resilience matters is because it’s impossible to see around corners. The future is unknowable. Resilience means being able to adapt in the face of a surprising setback.

Pretending you can avoid risk by perfectly predicting the future lulls you into a dangerously fragile life pattern, leaving you exposed to a huge blow-up in the future. When you’re resilient, you can play for big opportunities with less worry about the possible consequences of unanticipated hiccups. For the start-up of you, the only long-term answer to risk is resilience.

Remember: If you don’t find risk, risk will eventually find you.

Why You’re Stronger Than You Think

…when adversity strikes, a significant number of us are going to feel bad. We’re going to feel scared, depressed, and anxious. But those feelings need not paralyze us. Nor does their presence necessarily limit our ability to manage such adversity in the long run.

Yet the even the most powerful ideas for generating resilience will remain ineffective if we only read about them but do nothing to put them into practice. But that’s exactly what I want to encourage everyone to do who is struggling. And remember that when adversity strikes, your ability to predict the future may be terrible but your ability tocreate it is far greater than you suppose.

Resilience – A Key To Happiness

Failing to do well at studies or work, an enterprise that fails to take off and instead lands you in debt, a debilitating illness, or losing a loved one – all of these are part and parcel of life and if you do not want these to turn you into a nervous wreck, it is vital you put such disappointments in perspective.

Resilience is a quality that is a combination of several things – a positive attitude, the ability to discriminate between right and wrong, the strength to do what is difficult without giving in to impulses, and the ability to believe in yourself and your abilities. Here are a few tips on how you can build resilience…


Are You (Subconsciously) Afraid of Success?

Have you ever found yourself on the verge of a big success, and noticed things starting to go wrong?It begins with a feeling of agitation. The tiniest details irritate you. Reliable people start making alarming mistakes.“What’s up with them? Can’t they see how important this is? Why are they being so careless?”

So what can you do about it?

Sometimes all you need to do is “out” the fear by admitting to yourself that you are, in fact, afraid. Paradoxically, it can have the effect of helping you relax.

“OK, I’m nervous, which is pretty normal considering what’s at stake.”

(Deep breath)

“Right, what’s next?”

And sometime it helps to focus on exactly what you’re afraid of, and find a way to deal with the threat. Here are three classic versions of fear of success, and what to do about them…


For Students (And All of Us!) The First Priority Must Be Sleep

Research keeps pouring out about the importance of sleep. Inadequate sleep is implicated in anxiety, depression, other emotional disorders, attention issues, unhealthy weight gain and poor cognition.

And sleep is essential to learning, because the material we learn during the day needs to be processed during sleep. All that studying is counter-productive we are staying up too late to then “sleep on it” and let the information sink in.

Here are a few suggestions for making enough sleep happen, for older folk just as much for those people in formal study…


4 Powerful Words Employees Need to Hear

There are lots of ways to make a positive impact on your staff. But the best involves four simple words: “Can you help me?”

When you need help–no matter the kind of help you need or the person you need it from–take the bass out of your voice and the stiffness out of your spine and the captain out of your industry and just say, with sincerity and humility, “Can you help me?”

When you ask that way several powerful things immediately occur–especially for the other person…

The 3 Leadership Behaviors That Make Your Employees Feel Fulfilled

…while exactly what will make individuals at different companies feel happy and fulfilled at work may vary there are a few golden rules that work across the board.

1. Recognize even routine jobs.

2. Reward outstanding work.

3. Understand what really matters to your employees.

What Bosses Should Be Looking For

“You can teach skill but you can’t teach character.”

Here are a couple of suggestions for hiring;

1) Stop looking for the right person for the job.

Rather than looking to see if the person could do the job or not try looking the person’s values and character. No doubt that it is important to find someone who is capable of the tasks at hand but what is more important is if the person is right for the organisation.  A great question to ask yourself before hiring someone is “what kind of impact do I want the person in this position to have on our culture?”

 2) Interview for potential not qualifications.

Employers should be asking questions that elicit the individual’s strengths, character, and process by which they solve problems. Ask questions like “How do you feel you still need to develop personally?” or “How do you experiment?” This allows the person to share more deeply about who they are, what their values are, and what they hope to accomplish in this lifetime.


Creativity – the challenge of defining, developing and assessing it

OECD Creativity Prototyle Assessment Tool 2

Creativity is defined as one of the four 4Cs of  Learning and Innovation in 21st Century learning.  AnOECD Creativity working paperprovides a prototype assessment tool that aims to break down Creativity into 5 main dispositions and then divides these dispositions into 3 sub-habits…

Maybe you’d like to try and use this to assess your own creativity levels now, and perhaps set some new aims for becoming more creative based on your self-assessment…?

9 Ways To Light Your Creativity ON FIRE

“When you are totally out of luck and feeling incredibly down, how do you spark that creativity up so you can get going again?”

Here are James Altucher’s 9 tips to get creative right now…

1. Turn Upside Down

2. List Options

3. Combine Ideas

4. Use New technology

5. Connect People

6. Make Something

7. Leave

8. Virtually Leave

9. Seek Help


Gift of Grandparents (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do.  
Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children. 

(Alex Haley)

The Life of Things (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

But the still life resides in absolute silence.  

(Mark Doty, ‘Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy’)

More sublime photos from Steve McCurry that teach us something more about what it is to be human…