Monday, 3 December 2012

The Character of Characters

Just started writing my new book, The Character of Characters, a sort of rogues` gallery of characters I have known and their various quirks and foibles. Enjoy and share my free Advent gift here:
Have fun

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Wednesday, 5 September 2012


Parcelfarts.docx Download this file


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Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The End of Growth, the Beginning of Something Wonderful?

Be inspired by Charles Eisenstein and others:

Hello everyone,

I've got a bunch of new interviews and articles to tell you about, and upcoming events.

In July I took a dizzying trip to Europe, did like 50 talks and interviews in 3 weeks, and met so many amazing people I still haven't digested it all. Then a trip to California that was likewise. When I get into a funk about the future of our species, I remember these meetings and think, with so many dynamic, brilliant, dedicated people serving the more beautiful world that wants to be born, how can I be pessimistic? To give you just one example, there's this young Kenyan guy, Philip Munyasia, who has started a permaculture oasis near the slum he grew up in, reversing desertification and getting destitute local children involved -- just amazing, his courage and creativity. I met him in Portugal as he was looking for angel funders. If any of you are in that category, here is his website and I could also get you in touch with him personally. It would be a very high-yield philanthropic "investment" in terms of the social and ecological return on the dollar. I was meeting people like that nearly every day in Europe, and those meetings have infiltrated me down to my bones. I love being inspired by people who make me say wow!

Here are some of the interviews that happened in Europe:


 And here are a few from before and after that trip:

I've also published a few articles recently. Most recent is this one in The Guardian, about Fed policy and the end of growth. I am hoping to become a regular contributor to give the ideas behind more work more mainstream exposure and credibility. This piece garnered tons of ignorant and unfair comments, as well as quite a few supportive, thoughtful ones. It would be helpful if people sympathetic to and familiar with my thinking could chime in with comments, likes, etc. In an 800-word limit, it is hard to introduce radically new ideas without sounding like a crackpot.

Two other articles, less "economics-y", that I like are "Money and the Divine Masculine" and "Naivete, and the Light in their Eyes."

Finally, some upcoming events: Istanbul, Santa Fe, New York, Wharton Business School (believe it or not), New York again, Hamburg. These should all be on the events page of



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Thursday, 30 August 2012

Ursula K. Le Guin on the state of reading and publishing

Archive > 2008 > Jan · Feb · Mar · Apr · May · Jun · Jul · Aug · Sep · Oct · Nov · Dec
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Staying awake:

Notes on the alleged decline of reading

By Ursula K. Le Guin

Some people lament the disappearance of the spotted owl from our forests; others sport bumper stickers boasting that they eat fried spotted owls. It appears that books, too, are a threatened species, and reactions to the news are similarly various. In 2004 a National Endowment for the Arts survey revealed that 43 percent of Americans polled hadn’t read a book all year, and last November, in its report “To Read or Not to Read,” the NEA lamented the decline of reading, warning that non-readers do less well in the job market and are less useful citizens in general. This moved Motoko Rich of the New York Times to write a Sunday feature in which she inquired of various bookish people why anyone should read at all. The Associated Press ran their own poll and announced last August that 27 percent of their respondents had spent the year bookless, a better figure than the NEA’s, but the tone of the AP piece was remarkable for its complacency. Quoting a project manager for a telecommunications company in Dallas who said, “I just get sleepy when I read,” the AP correspondent, Alan Fram, commented, “a habit with which millions of Americans can doubtless identify.”11. The Associated Press polled 1,003 adult Americans. The NEA’s “Reading at Risk” survey of 2002 announced dire declines in the number of book-readers. Their 1992 poll of 13,000 adults showed that 60.9 percent had read any book, but in 2002, only 56.6 percent had; in 1992, 54 percent of adult Americans admitted to having read a work of literature that year; ten years later only 46.7 percent did. Strangely, the NEA excludes nonfiction from “literature” in its polls, so that you could have read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, The Voyage of the Beagle, Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography of Charlotte Brontë, and the entire Letters and Diaries of Virginia Woolf that year and yet be counted as not having read anything of literary value.

Self-satisfaction with the inability to remain conscious when faced with printed matter seems questionable. But I also want to question the assumption—whether gloomy or faintly gloating—that books are on the way out. I think they’re here to stay. It’s just that not all that many people ever did read them. Why should we think everybody ought to now?

For most of human history, most people could not read at all. Literacy was not only a demarcator between the powerful and the powerless; it was power itself. Pleasure was not an issue. The ability to maintain and understand commercial records, the ability to communicate across distance and in code, the ability to keep the word of God to yourself and transmit it only at your own will and in your own time—these are formidable means of control over others and aggrandizement of self. Every literate society began with literacy as a constitutive prerogative of the (male) ruling class.

Writing-and-reading very gradually filtered downward, becoming less sacred as it became less secret, less directly potent as it became more popular. The Romans ended up letting slaves, women, and such rabble read and write, but they got their comeuppance from the religion-based society that succeeded them. In the Dark Ages, a Christian priest could read at least a little, but most laymen didn’t, and many women couldn’t—not only didn’t but couldn’t: reading was considered an inappropriate activity for women, as in some Muslim societies today.

In Europe, one can perceive through the Middle Ages a slow broadening of the light of the written word, which brightens into the Renaissance and shines out with Gutenberg. Then, before you know it, slaves are reading, and revolutions are made with pieces of paper called Declarations of this and that, and schoolmarms replace gunslingers all across the Wild West, and people are mobbing the steamer delivering the latest installment of a new novel to New York, crying, “Is Little Nell dead? Is she dead?”

I see a high point of reading in the United States from around 1850 to about 1950—call it the century of the book—the high point from which the doomsayers see us declining. As the public school came to be considered fundamental to democracy, and as libraries went public and flourished, reading was assumed to be something we shared in common. Teaching from first grade up centered on “English,” not only because immigrants wanted their children fluent in it but because literature—fiction, scientific works, history, poetry—was a major form of social currency.

To look at schoolbooks from 1890 or 1910 can be scary; the level of literacy and general cultural knowledge expected of a ten-year-old is rather awesome. Such texts, and lists of the novels kids were expected to read in high school up to the 1960s, lead one to believe that Americans really wanted and expected their children not only to be able to read but to do it, and not to fall asleep doing it.

Literacy was not only the front door to any kind of individual economic and class advancement; it was an important social activity. The shared experience of books was a genuine bond. A person reading seems to be cut off from everything around them, almost as much as someone shouting banalities into a cell phone as they ram their car into your car—that’s the private aspect of reading. But there is a large public element, too, which consists in what you and others have read.

As people these days can maintain nonthreatening, unloaded, sociable conversation by talking about who murdered whom on the latest hit TV police procedural or mafia show, so strangers on the train or coworkers on the job in 1841 could talk perfectly unaffectedly together about The Old Curiosity Shop and whether poor Little Nell was going to cop it. Since public school education was strong on poetry and various literary classics, a lot of people would recognize and enjoy a reference to Tennyson, or Scott, or Shakespeare—shared properties, a social meeting ground. A man might be less likely to boast about falling asleep at the sight of a Dickens novel than to feel left out of things by not having read it.

The social quality of literature is still visible in the popularity of bestsellers. Publishers get away with making boring, baloney-mill novels into bestsellers via mere P.R. because people need bestsellers. It is not a literary need. It is a social need. We want books everybody is reading (and nobody finishes) so we can talk about them.

If we brought books over from England by ship these days, crowds would have swarmed on the docks of New York to greet the final volume of Harry Potter, crying, “Did she kill him? Is he dead?” The Potter boom was a genuine social phenomenon, like the worship of rock stars and the whole subculture of popular music, which offer adolescents and young adults both an exclusive in-group and a shared social experience.

Books are social vectors, but publishers have been slow to see it. They barely even noticed book clubs until Oprah goosed them. But then the stupidity of the contemporary, corporation-owned publishing company is fathomless: they think they can sell books as commodities.

Moneymaking entities controlled by obscenely rich executives and their anonymous accountants have acquired most previously independent publishing houses with the notion of making quick profit by selling works of art and information. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that such people get sleepy when they read. Within the corporate whales are many luckless Jonahs who were swallowed alive with their old publishing house—editors and such anachronisms—people who read wide awake. Some of them are so alert they can scent out promising new writers. Some of them have their eyes so wide open they can even proofread. But it doesn’t do them much good. For years now, most editors have had to waste most of their time on an unlevel playing field, fighting Sales and Accounting.

In those departments, beloved by the CEOs, a “good book” means a high gross and a “good writer” is one whose next book can be guaranteed to sell better than the last one. That there are no such writers is of no matter to the corporationeers, who don’t comprehend fiction even if they run their lives by it. Their interest in books is self-interest, the profit that can be made out of them—or occasionally, for the top executives, the Murdochs and other Merdles, the political power they can wield through them; but that is merely self-interest again, personal profit.

And not only profit but growth. If there are stockholders, their holdings must increase yearly, daily, hourly. The AP article ascribed “listlessness” and “flat” book sales to the limited opportunity for expansion. But until the corporate takeovers, publishers did not expect expansion; they were quite happy if their supply and demand ran parallel, if their books sold steadily, flatly. How can you make book sales expand endlessly, like the American waistline?

Michael Pollan explains in The Omnivore’s Dilemma how you do it with corn. When you’ve grown enough corn to fill every reasonable demand, you create unreasonable demands—artificial needs. So, having induced the government to declare corn-fed beef to be the standard, you feed corn to cattle, who cannot digest corn, tormenting and poisoning them in the process. And you use the fats and sweets of corn by-products to make an endless array of soft drinks and fast foods, addicting people to a fattening yet inadequate diet in the process. And you can’t stop these processes, because if you did profits might become listless, even flat.

This system has worked only too well for corn, and indeed throughout American agriculture and manufacturing, which is why we increasingly eat junk and make junk while wondering why tomatoes in Europe taste like tomatoes and foreign cars are well engineered.

You can cover Iowa border to border with Yellow Corn #2, but with books you run into problems. Standardization of the product and its production can take you only so far—because there is some intellectual content to even the most brainless book. People will buy interchangeable bestsellers, formula thrillers, romances, mysteries, pop biographies, and hot-topic books up to a point, but their product loyalty is defective. A book has to be read, it takes time, effort—you have to be awake to do it. And so you want some reward. The loyal fans bought Death at One O’Clock and Death at Two O’Clock… yet all of a sudden they won’t buy Death at Eleven O’Clock even though it follows exactly the same surefire formula as all the others. The readers got bored. What is a good growth-capitalist publisher to do? Where can he be safe?

He can find some safety in exploiting the social function of literature. That includes the educational, of course—schoolbooks and college texts, favorite prey of corporations—as well as the bestsellers and popular books of fiction and nonfiction that provide a common current topic and a bond among people at work and in book clubs. Beyond that, I think corporations have been foolish to look for safety or reliable growth in publishing.

Even during what I have called the “century of the book,” when it was taken for granted that many people read and enjoyed fiction and poetry, how many people in fact had or could make much time for reading once they were out of school? During those years most Americans worked hard and worked long hours. Weren’t there always many who never read a book at all, and never very many who read a lot of books? We don’t know how many, because we didn’t have polls to worry us about it.

If people make time to read, it’s because it’s part of their jobs, or other media aren’t readily available, or they aren’t much interested in them—or because they enjoy reading. Lamenting over percentage counts induces a moralizing tone: It is bad that we don’t read; we should read more; we must read more. Concentrating on the drowsy fellow in Dallas, perhaps we forget our own people, the hedonists who read because they want to. Were such people ever in the majority?

I like knowing that a hard-bitten Wyoming cowboy carried a copy of Ivanhoe in his saddlebag for thirty years, and that the mill girls of New England had Browning Societies. There are readers like that still. Our schools are no longer serving them (or anybody else) well, on the whole; yet some kids come out of even the worst schools clutching a book to their heart.

Of course books are now only one of the “entertainment media,” but when it comes to delivering actual pleasure, they’re not a minor one. Look at the competition. Governmental hostility was emasculating public radio while Congress allowed a few corporations to buy out and debase private radio stations. Television has steadily lowered its standards of what is entertaining until most programs are either brain-numbing or actively nasty. Hollywood remakes remakes and tries to gross out, with an occasional breakthrough that reminds us what a movie can be when undertaken as art. And the Internet offers everything to everybody: but perhaps because of that all-inclusiveness there is curiously little aesthetic satisfaction to be got from Web-surfing. You can look at pictures or listen to music or read a poem or a book on your computer, but these artifacts are made accessible by the Web, not created by it and not intrinsic to it. Perhaps blogging is an effort to bring creativity to networking, and perhaps blogs will develop aesthetic form, but they certainly haven’t done it yet.

Besides, readers aren’t viewers; they recognize their pleasure as different from that of being entertained. Once you’ve pressed the on button, the TV goes on, and on, and on, and all you have to do is sit and stare. But reading is active, an act of attention, of absorbed alertness—not all that different from hunting, in fact, or from gathering. In its silence, a book is a challenge: it can’t lull you with surging music or deafen you with screeching laugh tracks or fire gunshots in your living room; you have to listen to it in your head. A book won’t move your eyes for you the way images on a screen do. It won’t move your mind unless you give it your mind, or your heart unless you put your heart in it. It won’t do the work for you. To read a story well is to follow it, to act it, to feel it, to become it—everything short of writing it, in fact. Reading is not “interactive” with a set of rules or options, as games are; reading is actual collaboration with the writer’s mind. No wonder not everybody is up to it.

The book itself is a curious artifact, not showy in its technology but complex and extremely efficient: a really neat little device, compact, often very pleasant to look at and handle, that can last decades, even centuries. It doesn’t have to be plugged in, activated, or performed by a machine; all it needs is light, a human eye, and a human mind. It is not one of a kind, and it is not ephemeral. It lasts. It is reliable. If a book told you something when you were fifteen, it will tell it to you again when you’re fifty, though you may understand it so differently that it seems you’re reading a whole new book.

This is crucial, the fact that a book is a thing, physically there, durable, indefinitely reusable, an object of value.

I am far from dismissing the vast usefulness of electronic publication, but my guess is that print-on-demand will become and remain essential. Electrons are as evanescent as thoughts. History begins with the written word. Much of civilization now relies on the durability of the bound book—its capacity for keeping memory in solid, physical form. The continuous existence of books is a great part of our continuity as an intelligent species. We know it: we see their willed destruction as an ultimate barbarism. The burning of the Library of Alexandria has been mourned for two thousand years, as people may well remember the desecration and destruction of the great Library in Baghdad.

To me, then, one of the most despicable things about corporate publishers and chain booksellers is their assumption that books are inherently worthless. If a title that was supposed to sell a lot doesn’t “perform” within a few weeks, it gets its covers torn off—it is trashed. The corporate mentality recognizes no success that is not immediate. This week’s blockbuster must eclipse last week’s, as if there weren’t room for more than one book at a time. Hence the crass stupidity of most publishers (and, again, chain booksellers) in handling backlists.

Over the years, books kept in print may earn hundreds of thousands of dollars for their publisher and author. A few steady earners, even though the annual earnings are in what is now dismissively called “the midlist,” can keep publishers in business for years, and even allow them to take a risk or two on new authors. If I were a publisher, I’d rather own J.R.R. Tolkien than J. K. Rowling.

But capitalists count weeks, not years. To get big quick money, the publisher must risk a multimillion-dollar advance on a hot author who’s supposed to provide this week’s bestseller. These millions—often a dead loss—come out of funds that used to go to pay normal advances to reliable midlist authors and the royalties on older books that kept selling. Many midlist authors have been dropped, many reliably selling books remaindered, in order to feed Moloch. Is that any way to run a business?

I keep hoping the corporations will wake up and realize that publishing is not, in fact, a normal business with a nice healthy relationship to capitalism. Elements of publishing are, or can be forced to be, successfully capitalistic: the textbook industry is all too clear a proof of that. How-to books and the like have some market predictability. But inevitably some of what publishers publish is, or is partly, literature—art. And the relationship of art to capitalism is, to put it mildly, vexed. It has not been a happy marriage. Amused contempt is about the pleasantest emotion either partner feels for the other. Their definitions of what profiteth a man are too different.

So why don’t the corporations drop the literary publishing houses, or at least the literary departments of the publishers they bought, with amused contempt, as unprofitable? Why don’t they let them go back to muddling along making just enough, in a good year, to pay binders and editors, modest advances and crummy royalties, while plowing most profits back into taking chances on new writers? Since kids coming up through the schools are seldom taught to read for pleasure and anyhow are distracted by electrons, the relative number of book-readers is unlikely to see any kind of useful increase and may well shrink further. What’s in this dismal scene for you, Mr. Corporate Executive? Why don’t you just get out of it, dump the ungrateful little pikers, and get on with the real business of business, ruling the world?

Is it because you think if you own publishing you can control what’s printed, what’s written, what’s read? Well, lotsa luck, sir. It’s a common delusion of tyrants. Writers and readers, even as they suffer from it, regard it with amused contempt.







SEE ALSO: Literacy; Literature and society; Literature publishing; Reading interests
Response: April 2008, page 4 · April 2008, page 4 · April 2008, page 6 · April 2008, page 6 · April 2008, page 7
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The ongoing debate on the state of reading and publishing is worth taking part in for anyone interested in quality. What do you think?

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Friday, 24 August 2012

Tim Smit on Creating a Business round a kitchen table

More on the Eden Project:

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Tim Smit on Social Enterprise

Some straight talking here....

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Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Now that`s what I call a ringtone!

Following on from my earlier saga with T-mobile`s mobile internet dongle service:

I have been contacted by the ever-helpful technical support staff at Skype, who have informed me that Skype cannot work properly on a T-mobile dongle service because the bandwidth is not sufficient. This is particularly interesting, given that I specifically stressed from the start in the T-mobile store that I wanted a dongle that WOULD work with Skype, which I use a lot, and also given that, with this end in mind, they sold me the most expensive deal they had.

Ever wished you could tell your mobile provider exactly what they could do with their service? Here`s how Clint Eastwood would do it:

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Monday, 13 August 2012

How the Swiss reinvented banking in the 1930s and still show us the way forward

Confidence in the banking industry is at an all-time low since the Depression of the 1930s, when people started hoarding money at home rather than trusting it to banks, thereby unintentionally accelerating the downturn by slowing down the vital circulation of money even more.

But in parts of the US and German-speaking world, most notably Switzerland, which is arguably the greatest bastion of banking on earth, the response to economic crisis in the 1930s was to reinvent the core mechanisms of currency transactions themselves, and above all reinvent the way that people related to one another through money. They created a quantum shift in the fiscal culture by moving from competitive "me" to cooperative "us" thinking (from Ich to Wir in German). The WIR cooperative was born.

But whereas in the US and in Germany these crisis-led fiscal experiments in interest-free banking and alternative complementary currencies were ruthlessly stamped out by governments and the banking establishment, who saw in them a profound threat to their centralized control, in Switzerland the WIR cooperative soldiered on, weathering various further crises. Now, 75 years later, the cooperative is a fully-fledged universal bank trading in both its own currency and Swiss francs, a multi-billion banking giant, still run on cooperative principles.

The indisputable connection between economic crisis and war cannot be overestimated. It has been suggested that if cooperative banking and complementary currencies had not been ruthlessly stamped out in Germany in the 1930s, Hitler might never have come to power and World War II might never have happened. In the light of the current Eurozone crisis one wonders how things would have panned out if the Euro had been initially conceived as a complementary currency to operate parallel to the national currencies of Europe. Have we really forgotten that all currencies only really have a borrowed value, generated from a deeper "currency" of mutual trust and confidence? If we devalue those currencies, we ultimately devalue them all. This is an inescapable reality.

This article about the story of the WIR bank makes both inspiring and sobering reading.

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Thursday, 9 August 2012

Fishing for our children

Current EU fisheries policy allows drastic overfishing of our waters, way beyond what is sustainable, depleting our stocks and destroying local fishing industries by placing fishing quotas in the hands of industry giants, instead of supporting sustainable local fishing. We can and must change this! EU fisheries policy is up for its review now (this happens every ten years). What will our children and their children eat? Spread the word and add your voice to speak out for a sustainable and profitable fishing industry.



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Wednesday, 8 August 2012

T-mobile Voting with my Feet

T-mobile Voting with my Feet.doc Download this file

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Saturday, 28 July 2012

Mr Bean at the Olympic Ceremony

Happy to be at the Elliesfund-raiser on St Thomas Street in Scarborough last night, while Mr Bean was doing his bit at the Olympics opening ceremony:

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Wednesday, 25 July 2012


Imagine my joy at being woken at 3 am this morning by a text message from O2, informing me that they have just put together my bill for this month! I can`t wait for this three-year contract to end so that I can stop paying through the nose for a tariff I have had virtually no value from. Not to mention the mobile dongle I have been paying for that I cancelled twelve months ago and never use. Nice work if you can get it
Thank God for Skype is all I can say. 

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Friday, 20 July 2012

That darn dongle dingle-dangle

A couple of years back in Prague, Czech Republic, I got a dongle deal from O2 to keep me online during regular commuter train journeys. The dongle deal was tagged on to my mobile phone bill. Then I moved and changed jobs and no longer needed the dongle, so I rang up O2 and said I no longer needed the dongle and wanted to cancel the dongle deal. No problem, they said. Only, silly me, I forgot to check on my mobile phone bills and, one year later, guess what, I was still paying for a dongle I wasn`t using. Lesson learned: double check bills and put everything in writing!

Meanwhile, over in Spain, my best mate bought herself a dongle from Movistar, also her mobile phone provider, but in fact she never even took it out of the box because she then decided to get ADSL in her apartment. She phoned, several times, to cancel it, but many months later Movistar were still deducting money from her account for the dongle that was still wrapped up in its box. She went in to the local Movistar store and was assured that next month the fee would no longer be charged. The saga still continues.

Fast forward to the UK, where I am at a temporary address for the summer. I went into the local T-mobile store and explained that I needed a dongle with enough capacity to use with Skype (I Skype a lot as almost all my friends are strewn across Europe). No problem, they said in the store. Just get a 5g dongle and away you go. Great, I said. I took my laptop into the store, set up the payments on their computer, installed the dongle on my laptop and....... Skype didn`t work. Don`t worry, they said. There`s a fitness centre above us and the signal isn`t very good. Okayyyy. So I got the laptop and dongle home and, yes, you guessed it, it didn`t work at home either. Why not? Because apparently T-mobile BLOCK Skype on their dongles. Lessons learned: Check before you buy a dongle, preferably from an independent source, whether your dongle will actually do what you want it to do, and above all, cancel all contracts in writing, otherwise you could be paying a fortune.

Mobile service providers use all sorts of sharp practices to draw revenue from services either that you are not even using, or that they never even provided in the first place.
Have a nice day

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Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Music night at the Cask Inn Scarborough

Looking forward to an evening at the pub tonight. Jazz on Wednesdays, blues on Thursday:

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Saturday, 7 July 2012

So here I am in my home town!

The move is over! It´s wet here at the moment, but still beautiful!

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Saturday, 30 June 2012

I´m moving!

Hi everyone, next time I write it will be from the other side of the water!

Have a great weekend,

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Tuesday, 19 June 2012

What will replace money?

Sacred Economics. Great book by Charles Eisenstein. Be part of the most important debate of our times.

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Sunday, 17 June 2012

Kung Fuk Yu goes Premium on Smashwords

My book Kung Fuk Yu, soon available on all major platforms, now in all formats at Free samples. Write a review and get a free copy of Mistress Moldavite emailed to you!
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Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Domino team, on stage

Be inspired!

Domino team, on stage

Lauryn rocks the house:

Michael MPD testifies:

And here’s Al Pittampalli, bestselling author:

It’s absolutely incredible what talented people can accomplish when given the chance.

Article by seth godin

Seth Godin is the founder of The Domino Project and has written twelve books that have been translated into more than thirty languages. Every one has been a bestseller. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything.

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Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Law of Attraction, The Law of Allowing

Lately I have been reading a lot about the law of attraction and other laws related to it, such as the law of allowing. Two good websites for reading and doing courses are and

 If we are being honest, most of us can think back to experiences when our thoughts and mindset acted like a magnet for the same things we were radiating. If we have low self-esteem, we tend to attract people who put us down. If we think something is difficult, we tend to make it difficult for ourselves. I see this all the time when I am teaching languages. Students who often know very little but are willing to throw themselves into the experience will soon discover that they are able to communicate, while other students who have far greater knowledge of grammar and vocabulary will cower in a corner and be terrified to open their mouths in case they make a mistake. So they never learn how to listen and how to speak well. They rob themselves of success.

Abundance is certainly not about never making mistakes. If you take a good, long look at some of your heroes and heroines of success, you will see that they made some thumping mistakes in their time. In fact abundant mistakes can lead to abundant success. Conversely, other people can get locked into a downward spiral of errors, as their self-esteem plummets with each new mistake and they start to attract what they expect. So what´s the difference between the two? The difference is that the successful person expects mistakes to be part of the process. The successful person embraces the mistakes that go with the process, while the unsuccessful person cringes at the very thought of failure and eventually gives up the attempt.

Success, then, is not about the presence or absence of mistakes. It´s not even about winning or losing. It´s about cultivating a positive relationship to our experience.
Abundance is not about absolute numbers, such as 7 figures in your bank account. I have rubbed shoulders with some rich and powerful people in my time and I can promise you that wealthy people can live in terrible deprivation and unhappiness. It´s all in the relationship. To us, someone may seem rich and powerful beyond our wildest dreams, but to themselves they may seem like losers and failures. The lack isn´t in the bank account. It´s in the mind and heart of the person. If you think of yourself as deprived, you will live deprivation. If you think of yourself as wanting for nothing, you are well on the way to wanting for nothing.

This aspect of the law of abundance is what a lot of people don´t get. They are in a mind-set of want, so want is what they experience on the conscious level and the physical plane. They think they are failing to manifest what they want, when what they are actually manifesting is the state of wanting. The unconscious mind is very literal.

Let me tell you something that happened to me. A few years ago I had a really successful job in middle management and was on a very high salary for my profession. I didn´t live the high life, and yet I always seemed to be living from paycheck to paycheck. I had a permanent overdraft and a groaning credit card bill every month. I couldn´t understand what the problem was. As far as I was concerned, I was being ´sensible´with money and living quite frugally. I now believe that I was thinking of myself as deprived for reasons that had nothing to do with money, and so I manifested that reality in my material conditions.

Then something unexpected happened. I fell ill and had to take long-term medical leave. I didn´t work for a whole year. The well-paid job went, a huge hole was carved in my savings, the flat in the big city went, and I found myself living in a fourth-floor walk-up. But suddenly I found my contentment. Instead of thinking about what I didn´t have, I started feeling grateful to be alive and waking up to each new day. I didn´t have a big salary any more, but somehow, miraculously, although my income seemed too small to survive on, I actually managed to pay off my overdraft and credit card bills. By losing the mindset of deprivation and want, I found that I stopped wanting on the physical plane. I found that I have everything that I need. I have abundance, whatever it may look like from the outside. That part is important.

But there is more. When we are focused on what we lack, on what we think we want, we are also focused on ourselves. We become prisoners of ourselves. By allowing this to happen we deprive ourselves of one of the most powerful mechanisms of an abundant life, which is attracting abundance by giving abundance. By giving freely we free ourselves to receive freely.

This applies to all levels of life, and way beyond the level of material wealth. If we have been emotionally deprived or abused as children, for example, we may go through life permanently scarred, unable to give and receive love, unable to trust. We may spend a lifetime in various kinds of therapy or counselling, which may alleviate the symptoms of our emotional deprivation, but rarely ´cures´ us. And yet such a cure is possible. The only real known ´cure´ for an emotionally deprived childhood is perhaps surprising. It is to give your own children the unconditional love that you never had. This is the real law of attraction and allowing. We don´t just attract what we think about or want. We reap the harvest of what we give. Look around you at the happiest people you know. I bet you every one of them is a cheerful giver. That is the law of abundance.

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Win a free copy of Kung Fuk Yu!

Spot the deliberate mistake in my novel Mistress Moldavite on and win a free copy of my latest book, Kung Fuk Yu! You must me over 18. Go on, have a go, it´s not hard. Just email me with the correct answer and I´ll send you the pdf of Kung Fuk Yu



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Win a free copy of Kung Fuk Yu!

Spot the deliberate mistake in my novel Mistress Moldaviteand win a free copy of my latest book Kung Fuk Yu! Go on, give it a go, it´s not hard


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Win a free copy of Kung Fuk Yu!

Win a free copy of Kung Fuk Yu! Sign up to and spot the deliberate mistake in my novel Mistress Moldavite. The first 10 people to spot the deliberate mistake (it´s not hard!) will get a free copy of my latest book, Kung Fuk Yu. Just email me your answer and I´ll send you the Pdf. Go on, give it a go. Look forward to hearing from you, love, Meira

Myebook - Mistress Moldavite - click here to open my ebook

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Saturday, 2 June 2012

Kung Fuk Yu

Self-help for sweetie-pies now available on For those days when you don´t know whether to laugh or cry.


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Kung Fuk Yu on

Read my new book Kung Fuk Yu at! Also available on Smashwords

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Kung Fuk Yu!

Kung Fuk Yu, my latest book, was published today on Smashwords!
Proof that being successful is about mindset, not about sharp elbows and a machete mouth. Buy, read, retweet! Soon to appear on all major ebook platforms. Have a great weekend,
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Thursday, 31 May 2012

Read 4 life

I've been a devoted, even fanatical reader of fiction my whole life, but sometimes I feel like I'm wasting time if I spend an evening immersed in Lee Child's newest thriller, or re-reading The Great Gatsby. Shouldn't I be plowing through my in-box? Or getting the hang of some new productivity app? Or catching up on my back issues of The Economist? That slight feeling of self-indulgence that haunts me when I'm reading fake stories about fake people is what made me so grateful to stumble on a piece in Scientific American Mind by cognitive psychologist Keith Oatley extolling the practical benefits to be derived particularly from consuming fiction.

Over the past decade, academic researchers such as Oatley and Raymond Mar from York University have gathered data indicating that fiction-reading activates neuronal pathways in the brain that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion — improving his or her overall social skillfulness. For instance, in fMRI studies of people reading fiction, neuroscientists detect activity in the pre-frontal cortex — a part of the brain involved with setting goals — when the participants read about characters setting a new goal. It turns out that when Henry James, more than a century ago, defended the value of fiction by saying that "a novel is a direct impression of life," he was more right than he knew.

In one of Oatley and Mar's studies in 2006, 94 subjects were asked to guess the emotional state of a person from a photograph of their eyes. "The more fiction people [had] read," they discovered, "the better they were at perceiving emotion in the eyes, and...correctly interpreting social cues." In 2009, wondering, as Oatley put it, if "devouring novels might be a result, not a cause, of having a strong theory of mind," they expanded the scope of their research, testing 252 adults on the "Big Five" personality traits — extraversion, emotional stability, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness — and correlated those results with how much time the subjects generally spent reading fiction. Once again, they discovered "a significant relation between the amount of fiction people read and their empathic and theory-of-mind abilities" allowing them to conclude that it was reading fiction that improved the subjects' social skills, not that those with already high interpersonal skills tended to read more.

Theory of mind, the ability to interpret and respond to those different from us — colleagues, employees, bosses, customers and clients — is plainly critical to success, particularly in a globalized economy. The imperative to try to understand others' points of view — to be empathetic — is essential in any collaborative enterprise.

Emotions also have an impact on the bottom line. A 1996 study published in the journal Training and Development assessing the value of training workers at a manufacturing plant in emotional management skills — teaching employees to focus on how their work affects others rather than simply on getting the job done — found that union grievance filings were reduced by two-thirds while productivity increased substantially. And a study of a Fortune 400 health insurance company conducted by Peter Salovey, a psychology professor at Yale, looked at the correlations between emotional intelligence and salary and found that people rated highest by their peers in emotional intelligence received the biggest raises and were promoted most frequently.

To bring the subject home, think about how many different people you interact with during the course of a given day — coworkers, clients, passing strangers, store clerks. Then think about how much effort you devoted to thinking about their emotional state or the emotional quality of your interaction. It's when we read fiction that we have the time and opportunity to think deeply about the feelings of others, really imagining the shape and flavor of alternate worlds of experience. Right now, I'm in the middle of Irene Nemirovsky's posthumously published novel about France's fall to the Nazis in 1940. Her simple sentences sketch a sense of uncertainty, moral ambiguity, and heartbreak — feelings I certainly wouldn't want to dwell on in "real" life, but emotions I'm better off for having taken the time to consider.

But nourishing empathy doesn't require such grimness. And if you want your diet of fiction, as it's shaping your mind to be more emotionally acute, to be specifically relevant to work, there is a body of great literature about business and organizational behavior. For instance, Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now, inspired by 19th century financial scandals among the British elite, resonates powerfully today. In his autobiography, Trollope wrote that "a certain class of dishonesty, dishonesty magnificent in its proportions, and climbing into high places, has become at the same time so rampant and so splendid that there seems to be reason for fearing that men and women will be taught to feel that dishonesty, if it can become splendid, will cease to be abominable. If dishonesty can live in a gorgeous palace with pictures on all its walls, and gems in all its cupboards, with marble and ivory in all its corners, and can give Apician dinners, and get into Parliament, and deal in millions, then dishonesty is not disgraceful, and the man dishonest after such a fashion is not a low scoundrel. Instigated, I say, by some such reflections as these, I sat down in my new house to write The Way We Live Now." Seems fairly au courant to me.

From now on, I'm going to feel less like an escapist slacker when I'm engrossed in a new novel. In addition to the Trollope, below are some of my favorite books to get you started.

Kurt Andersen, Turn of the Century — set in 2000 and 2001, a successful TV producer husband and digital entrepreneur wife, trying to balance the demands of work and life, wind up pitted against each other as executives in a U.S. media empire. His mistrust grows when she becomes a favorite of the Rupert Murdoch-like chairman. Meanwhile, their hedge-fund-manager best friend is involved in big-time stock manipulation. (Full disclosure: my husband is the author)

Jane Austen, Sandition — in this unfinished fragment of a novel, Austen departs from her typical marriage plot to describe the zealous entrepreneurialism of a real estate speculator. While we can never know how the novel would have ended, we can be pretty sure his housing bubble will burst.

Charles Dickens, Bleak House — Dickens' tenth novel explores the human cost of prolonged litigation through the eyes of Esther Summerson, who is caught up in a multi-generational dispute over the disposition over an inheritance. Anyone who has ever been entangled in a lawsuit will revel in the characterization of the process. At the time of publication, 1852–1853, public outrage over injustice in the English legal system helped the novel to spark legal reform that culminated in the 1870s.

William Gaddis, JR — in the 1976 National Book Award winner, the 11-year old protagonist, JR, secretly trades penny stocks, using the tools of the trade at the time — money orders and payphones — to build a fortune. Written entirely in dialogue, the absurdity of a precocious child's feat satirizes as Gaddis put it, "the American dream turned inside out." His description of dysfunctional boards and the corrosive effect of corporate takeovers and asset stripping are as current today as they were 30 years ago.

Joseph Heller, Something Happened — Heller's stream of consciousness second novel follows a regular-joe middle manager as he prepares for a promotion. The messy interweaving of his thoughts about his job, family, sex, and childhood perfectly distill how complicated the selves we bring to work really are.

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Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Cause and effect

"Cause and effect is as absolute and undeviating in the hidden
realm of thought as in the world of visible and material
things. Mind is the master weaver, both of the interior garment of
character and the outer garment of circumstance."

James Allen

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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Clint Eastwood effect

40-50 years ago, Clint Eastwood was a highly successful actor making classic spaghetti westerns and the classic Dirty Harry series. It was a recipe that worked. It was highly entertaining and highly commercially successful, and made a unique contribution to classic cinematography. But Clint Eastwood is not just a cog in someone else´s machine. He never was. He is a highly creative, innovative individual. Now he is 80, and he has done some of his best work in the last 10 years or so. That is what creative people do. They just get better and better, and work till they die. Think of Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, or Hereafter, in my opinion a masterpiece.
 But now think of the mindset of today´s employers. Creativity and innovation have never been more important than they are today, in industry, services and education. But what is the recruitment philosophy of most employers? Do we want creative and innovative people? Are we hiring the people who can deliver that calibre of work? No, we aren´t. We are hiring people who are CHEAP and COMPLIANT. Cheap and compliant is fine if what you are trying to do is sell a mediocre product using first-class marketing. But what we really need to be doing now is delivering first-class products. If Clint Eastwood was a teacher, or a company executive in a corporation, he would have been on the scrapheap for the last TWENTY-FIVE YEARS! Instead, because he is self-motivating and self-regulating, he is now doing the best work of his life. He´s still doing things he has never done before. We could all be doing what he is doing. So why aren´t we?

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The Clint Eastwood effect

40-50 years ago, Clint Eastwood was a highly successful actor making classic spaghetti westerns and the classic Dirty Harry series. It was a recipe that worked. It was highly entertaining and highly commercially successful, and made a unique contribution to classic cinematography. But Clint Eastwood is not just a cog in someone else´s machine. He never was. He is a highly creative, innovative individual. Now he is 80, and he has done some of his best work in the last 10 years or so. That is what creative people do. They just get better and better, and work till they die. Think of Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, or Hereafter, in my opinion a masterpiece.
 But now think of the mindset of today´s employers. Creativity and innovation have never been more important than they are today, in industry, services and education. But what is the recruitment philosophy of most employers? Do we want creative and innovative people? Are we hiring the people who can deliver that calibre of work? No, we aren´t. We are hiring people who are CHEAP and COMPLIANT. Cheap and compliant is fine if what you are trying to do is sell a mediocre product using first-class marketing. But what we really need to be doing now is delivering first-class products. If Clint Eastwood was a teacher, or a company executive in a corporation, he would have been on the scrapheap for the last TWENTY-FIVE YEARS! Instead, because he is self-motivating and self-regulating, he is now doing the best work of his life. He´s still doing things he has never done before. We could all be doing what he is doing. So why aren´t we?

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The Clint Eastwood effect

40-50 years ago, Clint Eastwood was a highly successful actor making classic spaghetti westerns and the classic Dirty Harry series. It was a recipe that worked. It was highly entertaining and highly commercially successful, and made a unique contribution to classic cinematography. But Clint Eastwood is not just a cog in someone else´s machine. He never was. He is a highly creative, innovative individual. Now he is 80, and he has done some of his best work in the last 10 years or so. That is what creative people do. They just get better and better, and work till they die. Think of Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, or Hereafter, in my opinion a masterpiece.
 But now think of the mindset of today´s employers. Creativity and innovation have never been more important than they are today, in industry, services and education. But what is the recruitment philosophy of most employers? Do we want creative and innovative people? Are we hiring the people who can deliver that calibre of work? No, we aren´t. We are hiring people who are CHEAP and COMPLIANT. Cheap and compliant is fine if what you are trying to do is sell a mediocre product using first-class marketing. But what we really need to be doing now is delivering first-class products. If Clint Eastwood was a teacher, or a company executive in a corporation, he would have been on the scrapheap for the last TWENTY-FIVE YEARS! Instead, because he is self-motivating and self-regulating, he is now doing the best work of his life. He´s still doing things he has never done before. We could all be doing what he is doing. So why aren´t we?

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

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Sunday, 13 May 2012

Mistress Moldavite
Adult Edition of Moldavite now available on Smashwords at introductory price! And of course the abridged version is still available. Click on the icon below. Have a great day

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Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Kung Fuk What?

My new book KFU, is coming out soon, and is now in the final copyediting stages! More later,

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Sunday, 6 May 2012

Nilofer hits the nail on the head

When you write online, no one checks to see if you have a journalism degree before they start to read. If you experience an earthquake and want to report on its danger or safety, no one asks your credentials before you report to Ushahidi. And if you were interested a creating a new company, you can simply initiate the idea and get funding through Kickstarter or Indie GoGo.

The gateways of power have changed.

Or have they?

When I look around, I see a culture that honors being prepared, doing the right things to get ahead, and achieving more and more, starting with our education — we need to go to the right high school to get into the right college, to get the right job after college. Our culture also honors fancy titles and brand affiliations, as visibly celebrated by the first question most Westerners ask on meeting someone new: "And who are you?" It's as if knowing one's title and affiliation will let you know if a person's ideas are even worth considering. And of course, premiere venture capitalists talk with pride about "pattern recognizing" for success, signaling that they typically fund a 23-year old from Stanford over say, women, people of color, or those with a more diverse life experience. All this, even though research shows creativity and innovation peak later in life.

So, which is it?

I'd like to explore this topic with you by sharing two arguments about what defines power today.

Argument 1: You Are Powerful Beyond Measure

Academic degrees, once a status differentiator, are no longer required to create good ideas. After all, Peter Thiel pays kids to leave school. Title and status are no longer essential. Opportunities that were once vetted opportunities — limited to a select few — are now available to many.

Case in point: Crowdsourcing solutions often allow us to include voices and talent we've never heard before. One such "game," Fold It, allows any individual to work with sequencing amino acids to figure out how that protein is going to fold. This particular work is very important to research and medicine, and is usually conducted by scientists with PhDs. But when Fold It studied who was the best protein folder in the world, it wasn't someone they "expected" to see. Instead, it was someone who is an executive assistant by day — a woman — and is the world's best scientific protein folder at night. This individual, driven by her own skills and passions, is not being assigned the work, nor being vetted to do the work, but is simply doing the work.

The Social Era unlocks new doors of both who can contribute and what can be created, and thus changes the very source of power itself. Crowdsourcing, SaaS models, open source, social networks, virtual workforces and other new meshy processes, tools, and business models have enabled new ways to create value. And, just as the Social Era shifts how an organization can create, deliver and capture value across its business model, it shifts — of course — the source of power for each of us, too.

The ingredient level of the social era starts with and is built off a single unit, that of a social human. Where the industrial era rewarded accreditations and employee numbers, the Social Era will reward those with the ability to connect, create, and contribute. As it stands, work has been freed from jobs, and each of us can find many ways to have impact without someone else telling us "we are allowed."

Argument 2: Power is a Limited Commodity

We still live in a world where being part of a powerful, exclusive group gives you power, whether that group is educational (the Ivy League, Skull and Bones, Harvard Law), professional (McKinsey, Google, Exxon Mobil), or demographic (white, male, straight). Who would argue that such affiliations no longer confer some degree of power?

I was recently talking to someone (a white male) who I considered a friend and fellow management thinker. I went to him for help crisping an idea; he gave me this advice:
"As a brown woman, your likelihood of being heard above the noise is next to nothing. For you to do so, you need to be way more edgy. But if you are too edgy, you're not safe. As a brown woman, you need to be safe for people to hear your ideas. And so don't be too edgy."

I asked him if there was any specific way that any human being could actually do what he suggested. He stared at the floor, and then shook his head.

Now here's the embarrassing part. After a couple of days of retelling this story and receiving only blank stares or uncomfortable silence in return — with no one saying anything close to "this advice is stupid" — within a day or so I started to believe... that it was true. I started to believe my skin color wasn't right to be seen as a management thinker. I started to believe that my ideas were not right because my history wasn't right. I started to believe that what mattered was not the power of these ideas, but whether I fit the mold of a "powerful" person enough for these ideas to be seen.

Reconciling the Two Points of View

So, let me ask you: Is power that thing assigned by others? Is it about getting top grades in the right school, and having the right titles and rank at work? Is it about being born to the right parents, into the right gender, in the right country? Are you more powerful if you are on the top org chart, or less powerful if you're at the bottom of the ladder? Do these external assignments define any of us as more or less powerful?

Or is power something that each of us manifests by knowing our purpose, applying it to what we create, and using that to define how we see ourselves in the world?

Power has been defined in terms of the ways in which you can have control over others — by paying them to do things, to direct activities, by allocating resources. In this view, some people have power and some don't. It's a win-lose construct.

But, the Social Era shows us that power can also come from how we create with others. In this way, power can be about what we can each affect. It comes down to contributing based on what we can each uniquely bring, something I've called owning our "onlyness." When each of us recognizes our own agency, we have power enough to each create and contribute what we can.

What I see is a shift in the nature of power and influence. And I wonder if we might want to call out two specifics:

  1. Power is open. Power used to be the thing that got things done, and influence used to be the thing you used to try and get things done. But today, the power of connections, community, and shared ideas offer a different lever in what can be accomplished. It is open-source software and encyclopedias written by crowds and revolutions seeded on Internet portals. It is Kickstarter, Meetup and Ushahidi and any number of other platforms that allow disparate, diffuse strangers to marshal the kind of influence that once only centralized institutions could. This power is different than the traditional classification of hard and soft power. It is networked, engaged power.
  2. When power is assigned from the outside world (based on others' opinions or on status), then it is power that can also be taken away by that world. But by granting ourselves agency — a power that comes from understanding our individual ability to contribute to the world — we give ourselves a power that cannot be taken back.
The traditional definitions of power suggest that power is binary, situational, or limited. The Social Era is showing us a fuller truth about power. And it is this:

It does not define you. No. You define it.

There is a cost to defining power in the traditional, limited way. If we keep defining power in the same way, we end up staying in place. Look around. There are plenty of signs that suggest that what we've used so far isn't working. The act of reimagining our own notion of power might very well be central to what happens next, in our own lives, in our organizations, and in the economies in which we live.

Oh yeah! M.

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Fork it!

I can´t tell you how much time and energy I have wasted over the years trying to persuade people to look at things differently or do them differently. It used to eat me up that some people, even people you would think were quite bright, just couldn´t or wouldn´t see something that was staring them in the face.
Being a basically reasonable person, I assumed that most people out there were also basically reasonable. This is the mistake we all make. We all think that everyone else thinks the way we think. We reinvent the universe in our own image  and then wonder why it doesn´t seem to make sense. I found out the hard way that some people are incredibly unreasonable, often wilfully so, but more than this, the more you try to reason with them, the more unreasonable they become. This might actually be a good working definition of what being unreasonable means.
So the question is: what do you do about your opposition? What do you do when you just KNOW that you have a great idea, a great plan, a great design, a great book, or whatever, but all you get is the brick wall?
Forget about persuasion. There is no known force in the universe that can persuade an idiot not to be an idiot. If you could persuade an idiot not to be an idiot, they wouldn´t be an idiot. It´s that simple.
This is where the fork comes in. It has two prongs, but to be effective, it´s aimed at delivering success, not at eliminating the opposition. The more you oppose your opposition, the more you feed it, and the more you starve yourself.
Forget about the opposition. Ignore it, it´s wallpaper. If you are right, then your time and energy should be spent delivering the better alternative. It´s a fork motion. One prong is to ignore the opposition, the other is to blow it out of the water with something better. That´s what they are really afraid of.

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