Thanks to a couple of my little weekend projects, one of the things I do every week is collect short stories with messages. These are extremely useful and are a recurring activity. In fact, a close friend sends me a story every week. I couldn’t be happier. I am always looking for great short stories.

I began this story quest 3 years ago and I vividly remember being a story ‘hoarder’ in the early days. I would tend to ration these stories. I typically get together 3 draft stories every week and I used to be real careful that I only use 1 story I really like and fill the gaps with 2 not-so-great stories. My thinking was simple – ‘What if I run out?’

I still remember my thought process when I began my job search 3 years ago in university. The job market was still on the edge and jobs were hard to come by. When the search started, I did a lot of research and put together a google spreadsheet with job deadlines and application lists that I kept to myself for a couple of weeks.

It was around then that I was doing my re-reading of 7 Habits book and reading about ‘Think Win Win’, the premise of which is that you have to go in with the abundance mentality i.e. the belief that there’s enough out there for all of us. Only then can you seek win win.

That passage inspired me to share my precious document with friends. I don’t know if any of them ever used it or cared but it sure did liberate me and make me feel great. And of course, three years later, I can confidently confirm that there was enough out there for all of us.

It’s the same with stories. I never ran out. I never have. There have been lean months but I’ve always found stories, one way or another. It’s the belief that counts, I realize.

It’s something I’m taking forward into Real Leader interviews. We’ve exhausted our beginner’s luck (more on that soon) and we’ve hit a wall of some sort. And I realized I was back to my old habits – hoarding potential interviews for fear of running out.

I needed to remind myself last week that I’m only fooling myself. And I shed those inhibitions over the weekend. I don’t know if I will indeed ‘run out’. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. But, as one of my many all time-favourite quotes goes..

‘When you are at the beginning, don’t obsess about the middle for the middle will look different when you get there.’

On Failure, an Icelandic Main Course

This week’s book learning is from ‘The Geography of Bliss’ by Eric Weiner.

Eric Weiner was in Iceland, one of the happiest and most creative countries in the world attempting to find the secret to ‘Icelandic Happiness’.

He met with Lars Johansson. In his 40 years of living, Lars has earned a living as a professional chess player, journalist, construction company executive, theologan and music producer.

‘It’s completely normal in Iceland to have a resume like that.’ Lars explains. ‘We believe having multiple identities (and not multiple personalities) is conducive to happiness.

The reason we are able to make these switches is that we, as a nation admire failures as long people fail with the best intentions, like if someone failed because he didn’t want to be ruthless in business. So, we try a lot and fail a lot.’

They then discussed the astonishing number of crappy artists in Iceland but Eric soon realizes that the crap acts like fertilizer – it enables the good stuff to grow.

He realized that Americans, for example, love a good failure story as long as it ends with success. Failure sweetens the taste, it’s the appetizer. In Iceland, it’s the main course.

Eric points out how Iceland’s ideas around multiple personalities runs contrary to American/Western ideas of ‘specialization’, where people learn more and more about less and less.

In Iceland, people learn more and more, about more and more and are much happier!

That runs consistent with a book learning ages ago on Richard Feynman. Fascinating thought!

Here’s to taking failures lightly i.e. the Icelandic way this week!

The Stuff You Are Made Of

Josef Pep Guardiola has left Barcelona Football Club. If you aren’t American, you’ve likely heard of Barcelona football (read: soccer) club in the past 4 years. Even if you are American, you probably have.

Barcelona football club have taken the game to a whole new level in the past 4 years or so and have had an incredibly successful 4 year spell in which they’ve won the coveted European Champions League twice, the Spanish league thrice and a whole host of other smaller trophies. To put it in context, most clubs haven’t seen such glory in over a 100 years of existence.

They have been witness to arguably the greatest player of the generation in Lionel Messi supported by a cohort of the best players in the world and have played the kind of football most teams can only dream of playing. In the past 4 years, they have often schooled some of greatest clubs in Europe in the art of playing football. In short, they have been phenomenal.

And, the man behind this extraordinary spell of success was Josef ‘Pep’ Guardiola. While there is no doubt he took charge at the right time, he undoubtedly played a massive part in their extraordinary success. Four years on, he has decided to call it a day as Manager of Barcelona Football club.

The move makes absolute sense. The Spanish press is pretty fanatical when it comes to the two clubs at the forefront – Real Madrid and Barcelona and exerts an incredible amount of pressure on all involved. Lionel Messi has likely peaked and it’s unlikely that he will be able to continue in his current vein of form for too long. Club legends Xavi and Carlos Puyol are likely to retire sooner rather than later and the rest of the team isn’t growing younger either. It is not likely to get any better or easier for Guardiola.

And the pressure on him is only going to increase as every day passes by. There are few jobs on the planet that exert the kind of stress that a manager of a leading football club faces. And, the simplest way to illustrate this is to look at Guardiola in 2008 vs the Guardiola in 2012.

It’s amazing how big a difference 4 years can make.

Pep Guardiola leaves behind a legacy that’s unlikely to ever be equalled. Even if you forget about the trophies won for a few minutes, Barcelona’s mesmeric playing style will likely never be forgotten and this team will go down as amongst the greatest ever alongside the all conquering teams from AC Milan, Ajax, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Real Madrid, and probably will even be placed a notch above by some footballing purists.

All that said, Guardiola’s departure made me reflect for a few moment in awe at the endurance of a footballing man who has spent 25 years at the helm of the most valuable sports team in the world and who seems to never look like retiring.

Sir Alex Ferguson took the helm at Manchester United when Pep Guardiola was a 15 year old boy and has been at the helm since. In that time, he’s built a footballing dynasty that’s unlikely to ever be surpassed winning 12 premier league titles, 2 Champions League titles and many others. And, he’s built 5 different teams over these years and converted all of them into hungry trophy collection machines. A couple of them would go down in the annals of history as amongst the greatest teams but the remaining three have not been outstanding. Yet, Ferguson’s strength of personality and determination have practically willed them over the line.

And he continues to do it. There was a crazy statistic 3 years or so ago that 924 managers had come and gone in all the other clubs in English football during Ferguson’s tenure. That number must be well over a 1000.

The reason I got thinking about this was thanks to a phone call I had with Mom an hour or so ago. She was sad to hear the Guardiola news (she thought he was very good looking! ;-)) and wanted to understand why he’s taking time off and why he looked so burnt out

That’s when we began talking about Ferguson and she remarked ‘I wonder what stuff that man must be made of.’

Apt, I thought.

Ferguson characterizes one of those things about people who make great role models. In all probability, we would never ever have the opportunity to ‘do a Guardiola’ for many reasons – situation, luck and the like.

But, somehow, Ferguson-like endurance feels within reach thanks to his success being a combination of hunger, drive, never ending determination, incredible persistence and ‘balls of steel’.

Day to day living isn’t glamorous. It’s about endurance. And our success often comes down to the stuff we are made of.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

What a Wonderful World with David Attenborough

It is very rare I post 2 videos in a week but I saw this in video in my inbox this morning and it made my day.

Just for today, let’s take a step out of our cubicles and desks for a few moments, stop complaining about the weather and take a walk to a park if necessary, to enjoy the world for what it is…

..for it truly is a wondderrrfull world..

Led me to Louis Armstrong’s original spoken intro version..

“Some of you young folks been saying to me,
“Hey Pops, what you mean ‘What a wonderful world’?
How about all them wars all over the place? You call them wonderful?
And how about hunger and pollution? That ain’t so wonderful either.”

Well how about listening to old Pops for a minute. Seems to me, it aint the world that’s so bad but what we’re doin’ to it.

And all I’m saying is, see, what a wonderful world it would be if only we’d give it a chance. Love baby, love. That’s the secret, yeah. If lots more of us loved each other, we’d solve lots more problems. And then this world would be better.

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you.

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.

Yes, I think to myself
What a wonderful world
Oh yeah!”