Walk On and Write On
Hello my friends,
Hope you are having a happy Double One Day! Since I sent you a One Day message in January, I decided that today is Double One Day.
You may remember that last year’s message began with the story of my Singaporean friend Yeo Keng Choo telling me how, in Chinese, 10-10-10 sounds like “Yes, Yes, Yes!”
I was in Singapore again last month and my friend Sherman Teo said that he was looking forward to the 11-11-11 message. I told him I didn’t have a theme yet. Since Keng Choo’s story had helped last year, I asked Sherman what 11 means in Chinese. He held up two fingers side by side and moved them: “The Chinese symbol for eleven is two legs—walking. So eleven to us means walking.”
Sherman gave me the hint I needed: writing about walking.
This has been a year of writing and walking. Rosie encouraged me to walk daily during the weeks before my operation so that I would be fitter when I started recovering. Very wise. And I have kept on walking.
Just before the operation, I had a negative response from a publisher. I could describe that experience (and a few others during the year) from that wonderfully optimistic perspective: shift happens.
So I came out of surgery with two goals: Walk on. Write on.
My friend Den will easily guess the song that keeps going through my head these days. With humble apologies to Oscar Hammerstein, I hear myself singing:
Write on through the shift
Walk on through the pain
And you’ll never walk alone
Write on toward your truth
Walk on toward your dreams
And you’ll never walk alone
Thanks to support from each of you, I never walk alone.
As an historian by training and a science-fiction reader by choice, I spend lots of time looking at both the past and the future. And I’ve learned how to work with people in the here and now—so I do notice the present as well.
In the present moment of this Double One Day, I remember the past and I imagine the future.
The double one is also an eleven. I would have called it an eleven when I was growing up in the US. But here in Scotland, when we have a phone number that ends in 884771, we say double-eight four, double-seven one.
Looking for a double one in the past, I go back to when I was eleven—when I joined the Boy Scouts. I was already playing the trumpet, so I became a Boy Scout bugler as well. In November, Mr. Cantrell, the principal of McKinley School, asked me to be the bugler for Armistice Day.
Just before eleven in the morning, I left my classroom and met Mr. Cantrell. He asked me to stand in the hall that ran between the old building and the new building—so that I could be heard in both directions. I stood there looking down a long empty hallway. At eleven o’clock, I played Taps.
Taps (the US tune) or the Last Post (the British tune) is the call a bugler plays to mark the end of the day or to honour the dead.
Today, in some parts of the world, other buglers are playing Taps or the Last Post. For many people, 11 November means Remembrance Day or Veterans Day or Armistice Day. It is a day to remember those who died in the First World War—and in the other wars since then.
As I continue to work in different parts of the world, I keep learning that “world” does not always mean the same thing. There is a distinct difference between the World Series and the World Cup. And the First World War did not involve the southern hemisphere or the eastern hemisphere, except for people from the colonies or former colonies of Europe.
So not everyone thinks of this day as a Remembrance Day. Even if you do spend two minutes of silence in remembrance today, you might also spend two more minutes in imagining.
Imagine that Double One Day is also Imagination Day.
As a military historian and as a science fiction reader, I’ve read a about past wars and future wars. Some people think that war is inevitable. I resist inevitability. I imagine the possibility of no more war.
Bruce Kent and others have created the Movement for the Abolition of War. Read those words again: the abolition of war. Imagine that possibility. Just for a moment.
I was eleven when I played Taps on Armistice Day. My oldest granddaughter is eleven this year. Imagine that her present might lead to a different future.
Imagine a future that did not include remembering the deaths of more soldiers (and even more civilians) killed in conflicts. Imagine changing the pattern of the past eleven years of war: the UK and many of its allies have been at war every year of this century. Imagine eleven years of peace. Or imagine 11 times 11 times 11 years of peace.
Imagining the abolition of war connects directly with the ideas that I have been writing about for the past five years.
The abolition of war does not mean that conflict will cease. We will still have conflicts as we pursue peace with justice for everyone.
The question is how we respond to conflict. I see the temptation—in myself as well as in others—to use war (or to use dominating power) in when I want something. I usually manage to control that instinct, but I know it is there.
I have mixed feelings as I read Walter Isaacson’s brilliant new biography of Steve Jobs. I envy Steve’s ability to know exactly what he wanted and then make it happen. And I cringe at Steve’s inability to treat others kindly while going after what he wanted.
How do we do great things without alienating others? I don’t know the whole answer. I just know that going to war or getting angry is not the answer; it only leads to more questions—and more temptations to fight back.
War or domination is not the answer for countries, companies, communities—or friends.
Part of the answer is to walk on; to walk and talk with the people we care about. We can do a lot of significant thinking and talking and listening while walking.
And another part of the answer is to write on—to write in my journal, to write to my friends, to write to politicians about what I want to keep or to change.
We spend a lot of time thinking about who will win, who will dominate, who will lead us—or how will we lead them.
I don’t think those are the best questions. I think the crucial question is this: How will we influence each other?
We need to get better at talking reasonably with each other, listening carefully to each other, making win-win deals with each other, and envisioning dreams together.
Those four approaches to influencing are what I have been working on and learning about for more than thirty years. And those four approaches are what I have written about in Influencing for Results in Organisations.
As a special reward for reading this far, you can get a pre-publication discount of 20% on the Libri Publishing site. Paste this entire link into your browser: http://www.libripublishing.co.uk/management-policy-and-education/influencing-for-results-in-organisations?cPath
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Two nights ago, I went into Edinburgh to hear Tom Paxton, exactly 45 years and nine days after I first heard him sing there. One of Tom’s songs is a way of thanking his friends. It is called The Honor of Your Company. It includes these wonderful lines:
If ever I was the singer, you were the song.
Thank you for the honor of your company.
This message is a thank you note to each of you for your support and encouragement. Although I often sign messages with the word Thanks, there are times when I use the word Onward.
After one of those moments when shift happens, Rosie sent me this line. It is from the sixth stanza of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself:
All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses
That feels good to me, so I will double my signature. Have a wonderful Double One Day.
Write on toward your truth. Walk on toward your dreams.
Onward and Outward!