Seven Gifts


Hello my friends,


Today is 12-16-2016 or 16-12-2016 or 2016-12-16 depending on whether you like the date system used in North America, in the rest of the world, or on computers.


Taking the 20 away creates a date with the kind of palindromic numbers that appeal to me as an arithmodigmaphile—the word I invented to describe my love of number patterns. Since it is now almost midnight, I not going to finish this in time, but I did start this message on 16-12-16.


I have given and received some wonderful gifts this year. Here are seven of the gifts I’m grateful for.


1. Living

Being alive is complicated—but the gift of life is still preferable to the alternative. So I am grateful right now to Alistair, my GP, who sent me to hospital ten days ago.

A scan showed something that none of the doctors had seen before. So I am also grateful to Alastair, the surgeon, who found an article on idiopathic omental infarction. The next day, he and his team decreased my omentum and thereby—as my brother Giles noted—increased my momentum. Recovery is slow, but I am  very grateful to be living.


2. Lightening

Now that I’m confirmed as living again, it’s back to lightening my life before I really do kick that bucket. In last year’s message to you, I announced the publication of what George and I still call The Bucket Book.


The second edition (with a few corrections) is now available and would make an excellent last-minute gift for anyone you know who is old (or starting to get old) and needs to do a bit of clearing away. A bucket list is a list of things to do before you die. Our book is a list of ways to live before you die. You could find a copy online—or you could be one of the first three people to send me an email saying “Send me a Bucket Book” and I’ll send you a copy signed for you or a friend.


3. Contributing

Back in June 1971, I showed up late—and last—to the fifth reunion of the Class of ’66 of the College of Wooster. Everyone else had already turned down the opportunity to be president of the class for the next five years, so I had been elected before I arrived.


When we graduated, our class had a dream of making a big gift to the College at our 25th reunion. I took that dream seriously and the class kept re-electing me. This year—after 45 years as class president—I decided to let go and retire. But I had one more dream to take seriously before I let go.


Lib, our long-serving class secretary, and I put together a team of 18 classmates (with others joining in as we went along) and we spent four wonderful years preparing for our 50th reunion—and also becoming friends all over again. And I learned—finally—to start delegating to the three smaller teams working on Connecting, Celebrating, and Contributing.


We had a memorable week in June, connecting with old friends, celebrating our past and future, and contributing more than $13 million to the College. I am deeply grateful to the Reunion Planning Team of Bonnie, Bruce, Carol, Dave, David, Gail, Gerry, Ginny, Kathy, Ken, Lee, Lib, Linda, Ron, Sandi, Sara, and Will. Our four years together as a planning team were a high point in my life.


Avery, our class piper, piped us into dinner the first night—and then piped in Sarah Bolton, the inspiring new President of the College. I am grateful to Sarah, who gives me hope for Wooster and for the world beyond. In her inaugural address, Sarah spoke of creating an “inclusive and equitable… community that is not merely tolerant, but deeply welcoming” and that is exactly what we need now in the world.


4. Campaigning

Here in central Scotland, we keep on campaigning for that kind of welcoming world. When the YES Campaign paused two years ago, several of the YES folks kept that spirit going by starting a local food bank called Broke Not Broken. I am  grateful to Graham, Clare, and the others who have expanded the work dramatically. Just a few days ago, 75 people from our community gathered for an evening to prepare Christmas hampers of food and gifts for people in our community who need them.


I am grateful to my campaigning colleagues who keep showing up to knock on doors and focus on hope over fear. I’m grateful to Andy, Carole, David, Dale, John, Barbara, Joeann, Margaret, Joe, Christine, Jock, Margaret, Michael, Sheila, David, Jenni,

John, Allan, Norm, Derrick, Gordon, Evan, Iain, and Richard.


5. Influencing

Back in 2011 I published a book on Influencing for Results in Organisations—408 pages long.



For six months now, I have been condensing those 408 pages into the 32 pages of the Passport to Results—a pocket-size summary for people who do the course or read the book. A lot of ideas for this 25th Anniversary Edition came from my friend Alan, who has been carrying his earlier edition into every meeting for more than 15 years!



I’ve also created a foldover card for your wallet that summarises the key points of choosing how to influence someone. Four of those cards will be inside each Passport. The passports are being printed now, so in the new year you can order one through my website, or  go directly to my publishers at www.libripublishing.co.uk, or you could be one of the first three to send me an email saying “Send me a Passport” and I’ll send you one in January.


Another exciting  and rewarding process for me this year has been training a small group of trainers who will deliver the IFRIO (Influencing for Results in Organisations) course throughout Europe. I am grateful to Gerald, Jasenka, Jens, Gerald, Maarten, and Sabine, who are already translating the book into German, with Dutch and Croatian next.

6. Interacting

Forty-five years ago, I led my first intensive group (what NTL calls a T Group) and it is still my favourite way to learn with a small group of people. My NTL colleagues and I who are based in the UK are now offering the NTL Human Interaction Lab—your chance to learn at three levels simultaneously: intrapersonal, interpersonal, and group. People have experiences ranging from fascinating to transforming. We will meet from 3 to 7 April 2017 near Oxford, England. Let me know if you are interested and I will send you more information.


7. Risking

For those of us who have studied history, the present situation in the world is deeply worrying, but  I continue to focus on hope over fear and to look at crisis in the Chinese way—as a dangerous opportunity.


I remember what I wrote in my annual message in 1976 as a new president was about to take office in the US. The words seem equally important now—for the new president there and for the new prime minister here—but even more so for all the rest of us who share the responsibility of preserving this world for our grandchildren:


“Since we know our own experience with dangerous opportunities, we do not expect him to be perfect. But we do wish for him, for you, and for us the courage to risk toward the good at each dangerous opportunity.”