I once said to Bill Moyers that one reason I enjoyed his presentations was that he was a very good teacher and I learned so much by just listening to him. He is a great storyteller. He responded by saying that he considered himself the student and was always eager to learn from others. As I continued to watch him, I understood what he meant as he is adept at asking penetrating and probing questions that give the conversation resonance and depth. Thus, I continue to learn from others, from their life experiences, from their fortunes and misfortunes and mostly from their stories.
There are books and articles that speak to me for one reason or another and two recent good reads are Stephen King’s book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and Atul Gawande’s significant work Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. King’s book is autobiographical and he ends up sharing what he has learned about good writing. Anyone tuned in to current events knows that health care in this country is broken without much hope for a quick fix. Atul Gawande, a surgeon in Boston, gives me some hope, this being his fourth book that I have devoured. I enjoy writing, thus I read widely and write narrowly. I have written two small books in the past two years, mostly for the exercise of sharing some thoughts and experiences more widely with others. Will I write another one next year? Time will tell. Suggestions are welcome.
Many people start a conversation by asking what I do. I am often tempted to answer by asking another question such as why is that important to you? Or even something more glib such as I do a lot of different things, what do you do? Of course, I know what they mean, so I try to say something that sounds half way intelligent such as I am a teacher or an educator or a project manager or a writer and at least keep the conversation alive and moving along. My goal has been to continue to try and improve the quality of life where I find it. I learned that from Larry Mellon who adopted Albert Schweitzer’s maxims of reverence for life and life being a big canvas on which you throw some paint.
I have learned what works and what the critical variables are in the equation for change and growth. It has taken me back to the beginning. I call it the circle of success: common vision, common values, common purpose. If we are to succeed in our work, in this country and elsewhere, we must learn how to build collaborative energy, listen carefully to what is being said, and just as important, what is not being said, ask questions that are penetrating and honest, discern the real from the superficial and help people move forward with passion and purpose beyond themselves.
My wish and hope for each of you is that you will have a wonder-filled 2015, full of grace and glad surprises. Remember to nourish your spirit often at the wellspring of faith, not any kind of narrowly defined religious faith, but rather faith in yourself and others that extends hope and deepens our humanity. Let’s continue to work toward a more peaceful, just and sane world and enjoy the journey along the way, listening, learning and moving on.