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Month: December, 2013

Best Movie Speeches: Rocky Balboa’s Advice To His Son

Rocky Balboa

Sylvester Stallone’s latest movie, Rocky Balboa is an inspiring movie that shows how to get up from defeat and to train hard to become a winner in life. Rocky in this movie is aged sixty-plus and retired from boxing. He decides to come out of retirement and to get back into the ring as he grapples with some emotional issues and in an effort to resolve them within himself. His decision to fight an opponent half his age, naturally attracts criticism.

When his son, who is a corporate executive in his 30s struggling to set his career straight, blames his father for casting a shadow in his life. He is unable to stand his friends making fun of him because who his father is.

Rocky gives his son a heart-to-heart reprimand about how he needs to stop blaming and take charge of his life. He says to his son:

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.

But it ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.. It’s how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.

Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not point fingers and blame other people. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!”

Image Source: Wikimedia

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost (March 26, 1874 - January 29, 1963)

Robert Frost (March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)

Robert Frost was a one of the most popular and critically respected American poets of the twentieth century. Frost was honoured frequently during his life time. He received four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1960 for his poetical works. Frost, although never graduated from college, had received over 40 honorary degrees including ones from Harvard, Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge universities. What is more he was the only person to receive two honorary degrees from Dartmouth College. He became one of America’s rare public literary figures, almost an artistic institution.

The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost is probably one of the best-known, most-often misunderstood poems.

Robert Frost is speaking about the unique path we all travel in life. Everyday we are faced with dilemmas just like the poet who is standing in the woods, considering a fork in the road. He chooses one, telling himself that he will take the other another day. He ends the poem on a nostalgic note, wondering how different things would have been had he chosen the other path.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black,

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing here how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

The Bed of Procrustes

The Bed of Procrustes

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the author of the modern classics, The Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness wrote another stimulating and thought provoking book, The Bed of Procrustes, a collections of aphorisms and meditations.

The Bed or Procrustes according to Greek Mythology is the story of a man who made his visitors fit his bed to perfection by either stretching them or cutting their limbs. Procrustes was a son of Poseidon, who had a stronghold on Mount Korydallos at Erineus, which is considered as the sacred way between Athens and Eleusis. There he had an iron bed, in which he invited every passer-by to spend the night, and where he set to work on them with his smith’s hammer, to stretch them to fit. If the guest proved too tall, Procrustes would amputate the excess length; if the guest was short to fit the bed he would stretch him to fit.

In general, when different lengths air sizes or properties are fitted into an arbitrary standard, it is called Procrustean.

Here’s what the Amazon Editorial review of the book says: The book represents Taleb’s view of modern hubristic side effects – modifying humans to satisfy technology, blaming reality for not fitting economic models, inventing diseases to sell drugs, defining intelligence as what can be tested in a class room, and convincing people that employment is not slavery.

Playful and irreverent, these aphorisms will surprise you by exposing self-delusions you have been living with but never recognised. 

Here are some twenty aphorisms from the book, The Bed of Procrustes with a rare combination of pointed wit and wisdom:

1. The opposite of success isn’t failure; It is name-dropping.

2. Modernity needs to understand that being rich and becoming rich are not mathematically, personally, socially, and ethically the same thing.

3. You don’t become completely free by just avoiding to be a slave; you also need to avoid being a master.

4. What fools most often call “wasting time” is most often the best investment.

5. Older people are most beautiful when they have what is lacking in the young; poise, erudition, wisdom, and this post-heroic absence of agitation.

6. I went to a happiness conference; researchers looked very unhappy.

7. Decline starts with the replacement of dreams with memories and ends with replacement of memories with other memories.

8. Karl Marx, a visionary, figured out that you can control a slave much better by convincing him that he is an employee.

9. The fastest way to become rich is to socialize with the poor; the fastest way to become poor is to socialize with the rich.

10. Someone who says “I am busy” is either declaring incompetence (and lack of control of his life) or trying to get rid of you.

11. You will be civilised on the ay you can spend a long period doing nothing, learning nothing, and improving nothing, without feeling the slightest amount of guilt.

12. You are rich if and only if money you refuse tastes better than money you accept.

13. For most, success is the harmful passage from the camp of the hating to the camp of the hated.

14. The web is an unhealthy place for someone hungry for attention.

15. People focus on role models: It is more effective to find anti models – people you don’t want to resemble when you grow up.

16. It is a good practice to always apologise, except when you have done some thing wrong.

17. Preoccupation with efficacy is the main obstacle to a poetic, noble, elegant, robust and heroic life.

18. Charm is the ability to insult people without offending them; neediness is the reverse.1

19. Those who do not think that employment is systemic slavery are either blind or employed.

20. The are born, then put in box; they go home to live in a box; they study by ticking boxes; they go to what is called ‘work’ in a box, where they sit in their cubicle box; they drive to the grocery store in a box to buy food in a box; they go to the gym in a box, sit in a box; they talk about thinking outside the box and when they die they are put in a box. All boxes, Euclidean, geometrically smooth boxes.

Unforgettable Speeches: Winston Churchill’s ‘Never Give In’

Sir Winston Churchill (November 30, 1984 - January 24, 1965)

Sir Winston Churchill (November 30, 1984 – January 24, 1965)

Widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was an officer in the British Army, a historian, a writer and an artist. He was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. What is more, he was the only British Prime Minister to have won the 1953 Nobel Prize in Literature for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.

Here is one the most unforgettable speeches he gave on October 29, 1941 at Harrow School.

When Churchill visited Harrow on October 29, he discovered that an additional verse had been added to one of the traditional songs. It ran:

Not less we praise in darker days

The leader of our nation,

And Churchill’s name shall win acclaim

From each new generation.

For you have power in danger’s hour

Our freedom to defend, Sir!

Though long the fight we know that right

Will triumph in the end, Sir!

Here’s what spoke on that day:

“Almost a year has passed since I came down here at your Head Master’s kind invitation in order to cheer myself and cheer the hearts of a few of my friends by singing some of our own songs. The ten months that have passed have seen very terrible catastrophic events in the world – ups ad downs, misfortunes – but can anyone sitting here this afternoon, this October afternoon, not feel deeply thankful for what has happened in the time that has passed and for the very great improvement in the position of our country and of our home? Why, when I was here last time we are quite alone, desperately alone, and we had been so for five or six months. We were poorly armed. We are not so poorly armed today; but then we were very poorly armed. We had the unmeasured menace of the enemy and their air attack still beating upon us, and you yourselves had had experience of this attack; and I expect you are beginning to feel impatient that there has been this long lull with nothing particular turning up!

But we must learn to be equally good at what is short and sharp and what is long and tough. It is generally said that the British are often better at the last. They do not expect to move from crisis to crisis; they do not always expect that each day will bring up some noble chance of war; but when they very slowly make up their minds that the thing has to be done and the job put through and finished, then, even if takes months – if it takes years – they do it.

Another lesson I think we may take, just throwing our minds back to our meeting here ten months ago and now, is that appearances are often very deceptive, and as Kipling well says, We must “…meet with Triumph and Disaster. And treat those two impostors just the same.”

You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination. But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period – I am addressing myself to the School – surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours, our songs, our School history, this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated.

Very different is the mood today. Britain, other nations thought, had drawn a sponge across her slate. But instead our country stood in the gap. There was no flinching and no no thought of giving in; and by what seemed almost a miracle to those outside these Islands, though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to conquer.

You sang here a verse of a School Song: you sang that extra verse written in my honour, which I was very greatly complemented by and which you have repeated today. But there is one word in it I want to alter – I wanted to do so last year, but I did not venture to. It is the line: “Not less we praise in darker days.”

I have obtained the Head Master’s permission to alter darker to sterner. “Not less we praise in sterner days.”

Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days – the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.”

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Bill Bernbach on Creativity

Bill Bernbach (August 13, 1911 - October 2, 1982)

Bill Bernbach (August 13, 1911 – October 2, 1982)

William (Bill) Bernbach, the legendary founder of DDB (Doyle Dane Bernbach), noted for his devotion to creativity and offbeat themes was a major force behind the Creative Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. His work often was characterised by simplicity. What is more, he was a philosopher, a scientist, and a humanitarian. The creative revolution he ignited changed the world of communications and business forever.

Bernbach won many awards and honours for his work within the advertising industry.

1964: Inducted into the Copywriters Hall of Fame

1964: Received the Man of the Year of Advertising

1965: Received the Man of the Year of Advertising

1966: Received The Pulse Inc., Man of the Year Award

1969: Named Top Advertising Agency Executive

1976: Received the American Academy of Achievement Award

1976: Inducted into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame

Bernbach designed the Advertising Hall of Fame Golden Ladder trophy.

Bob Levenson, the DDB (Doyle Dane Bernbach) captured the essence of the creative spirit of Bill    Bill Bernbach in his brilliant book, Bernbach’s Book: A History of Advertising that Changed the History of Advertising.

What are the views and beliefs of one of the most creative brains of the advertising industry? Bernbach had very strong and clear views on what creativity is about. Here’s his take on creativity. It might as well serve as a guide to all creative persons in the world today, tomorrow and even the day after…

“1. Merely to let your imagination run riot to dream unrelated dreams, to indulge in graphic acrobatics and verbal gymnastics, is NOT being creative. The The creative person has harnessed his imagination. He has disciplined it so that every thought, every idea, every line he draws, every light and shadow in every photograph he takes, makes more vivid, more believable, more persuasive the original theme or product advantage he has decided he must convey.

2. The most important element for process in ad writing is the product itself. A ‘great’ campaign will only make a bad product fail faster. It will get more people to try it and find out how bad it is.

3. It is ironic that the very thing that is most suspect by business, that intangible thing called artistry, turns out to be the most practical tool available for it is only artistry that can vie with all the shocking news events and violence in the world for the attention of the consumer.

4. Principles endure, formulas don’t. You must get attention to your ad. this is a principle that will always be true. How you get attention is a subtle, ever-changing thing. What is attractive one day may be dull the next.

5. Logic and overanalyses can immobilise and sterilise an idea. It’s like love – – – the more you analyse it the faster it disappears.”

Keep Your Dream

housegood_op_800x600 copy

I have a friend named Monty Roberts who owns a horse ranch in San Ysidro. He has let me use his house to put on fund-raising events to raise money for youth at risk programs.

The last time I was there he introduced me by saying, “I want to tell you why I let Jack use my house. It all goes back to story about a young man who was the son of an itinerant horse trainer who would go from stable to stable, race track to race track, farm to farm, and ranch to ranch, training horses. As a result, the boy’s high school career was continually interrupted. When he was a senior, he was asked to write a paper about what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“That night, he wrote a seven-page paper describing his goal of someday owning a horse ranch. He wrote about his dream in great detail and he even drew a diagram of a 200-acre ranch, showing the location of all the buildings, the stables and the track. Then he drew a detailed floor plan for a 4,000-square-foot house that would sit on a 200-acre dream ranch.

“He put a great detail of his heart into the project and the next day he handed it in to his teacher. Two days later he received his paper back. On the front page was a large red ‘F’ with a note that read, ‘see me after class.’

“The boy with the dream went to see the teacher after class and asked, ‘Why did I receive an F?’

The teacher said, ‘This is an unrealistic dream for a young boy like you. You have no money. You come from an itinerant family. You have no resources. Owning a horse ranch requires a lot of money. You have to buy the land. You have to pay for the original breeding stock and later you’ll have to pay large stud fees. There’s no way you could ever do it.” Then the teacher added, “If you will rewrite this paper with a more realistic goal, I will reconsider your grade.’

“The boy went home and thought about it long and hard. He asked his father what he should do. His father said, “Look, son, you have to make up your own mind on this. However, I think it is a very important decision for you.” “Finally, after sitting with it for a week, the boy turned in the same paper making no changes at all.

He stated,”You can keep the F and I’ll keep my dream.”

Monty then turned to the assembled group and said, “ I tell you this story because you are sitting in my 4,000-square-foot house in the middle of my 200-acre horse ranch. I still have that school paper framed over the fireplace.” He added,” The best part of the story is that two summers ago that same school teacher brought 30 kids to camp out on my ranch for a week.” When the teacher was leaving, he said, ‘Look Monty, I can tell you this now. When I was your teacher, I was something of a dream stealer. During those years I stole a lot of kid’s dreams. Fortunately you had enough gumption not to give up on yours.”

“Don’t Let anyone steal your dreams. Follow your heart, no matter what.”

– Author Unknown

True Friend

soldier 2

Horror gripped the heart of the World War I soldier as he saw his lifelong friend fall in battle. Caught in a trench with continuous gunfire whizzing over his head, the soldier asked his lieutenant if he might go out into the no man’s land between the trenches to bring his fallen comrade back.

“You can go,” said the lieutenant, “but I don’t think it will be worth it. Your friend is probably dead and you may throw your life away.” The lieutenant’s advice didn’t matter, and the soldier went anyway. Miraculously he managed to reach his friend, hoist him on to his shoulder and bring him back to their company’s trench. As the two of them tumbled together to the bottom of the trench, the officer checked the wounded soldier, and then looked kindly at his friend.

“I told you it wouldn’t be worth it,” he said. “Your friend is dead and you are mortally wounded.”

“It was worth it, though, sir,” said the soldier.

“What do you mean, worth it?” responded the lieutenant. “Your friend is dead.”

“Yes sir” the private answered. “But it was worth it because when I got to him, he was still alive and I had the satisfaction of hearing him saying,”Jim…, I knew you’d come.”

– Author Unknown

University of Hope for the Hopeless


University of Hope for the Hopeless?

Yes. That’s probably the most appropriate description of the Delancey Street Foundation. Started in 1971 by Mimi Silbert, a criminologist and psychologist with John Maher, an ex-convict, the Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco provides residential rehabilitation services and vocational training for substance abusers and convicted criminals and reintegrates them into main stream society by operating various businesses such as restaurants, catering and moving companies. All these businesses are wholly managed and run by the residents themselves.

The Delancey street foundation is not yet another rehabilitation services provider. It is unique in many ways. The main force behind the Foundation and its success has been its co-founder, Mimi Silbert, the indefatigable woman and her commitment. After college, Mimi studied under the famous existentialist philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre in Paris. From him she learned, “there is no given meaning to life, and that you have to make that meaning.” Later, at the University of Berkeley, she earned a double doctorate in psychology and criminology and then taught briefly at Berkeley and San Francisco State universities. She became a consultant to prisons, mental health programs, halfway houses, and police departments.

In 1971, John Maher, a recovering alcoholic and heroin addict, who had served prison time for a series of petty crimes approached Mimi Silbert. He suggested that they set up a self-supporting rehab centre for ex-cons, an idea Silbert has been considering. Maher argued that the traditional rehab programs don’t work and that it takes an ex-addict to understand the gut wrenching pain of heroin. They further discussed the possibility of ex-cons living together and helping one another off drugs and also teaching each other how to get a high school diploma or a college degree, learn a legitimate trade, hold a job and most importantly, develop self-esteem.

What makes the Delancey Street Foundation unique? Its methods. Its core values. Its basic approach to the whole issue of rehabilitation. Who are its residents and how they adapt to change? When you consider the typical profile of a resident of the Delancey Street changing their hardcore addiction seems impossible. The residents come to the Delancey Street with an average of 18 felony convictions, seven years in prison and no better than an eighth grade education.

In Mimi Silbert’s words, “These are the people who have really hit the bottom. They are angry and hopeless and they hate everybody. They hate each other and they hate themselves. But it doesn’t matter to us what they’ve done. We take the people everybody else thinks are losers.. Our only criteria is that they want to change badly enough.”

What goes on in at the Delancey Street? The residents stay at Delancey Street for an average of four years and go through a curriculum of education that spans vocational, cultural, and social training. The professors are the reformed convicts and junkies themselves. There are no academicians who act as faculty members. The only qualified academician on the campus is Mimi Silbert herself. Each resident is required to earn a high school equivalency degree and learn marketable skills. One must involve physical labor such as construction, moving or automative; another must be accounting or secretarial or computer related; and finally every resident is exposed to people occupations such as waiting tables or doing sales. Once they successfully go through these, residents are free to major in one of them.

What is particularly noteworthy about the Delancey Street is that it has never sought philanthropic or government support even though it receives some donations from Silbert’s corporate friends such as the Gap Clothing. Most of its annual budget of over $ 24 million comes from the profits generated by more than 20 businesses, each of which doubles as a training school. It’s worth noting that while the taxpayers spend over $ 40,000 a year to support a single prison inmate, Delancey supports itself with profits generated from its businesses.

Two things make the Delancey Street distinctly different from the rest of the rehab programs. One is the fact that despite their long and brutal histories residents have never committed a single act of violence after they’ve begun their stay at the Delancey Street, and there have not been any arrests. No external controls, weapons or drugs are used.

Secondly, peer pressure is a powerful deterrent, and the residents use negative sanctions, positive rewards and role modelling to support each other.

It is the philosophy of the Delancey Street that makes it so successful and praiseworthy. It’s based on its core values:

1. Everybody’s in it together.

2. People are responsible for one another instead of just themselves.

3. This is about people helping each other. It isn’t enough in life to take care of yourself. Life is n’t just about you.

4. You are always both a student and teacher.

The practical vision and the undaunted will of Mimi Silbert is what makes the Delancey Street Foundation the Delancey Street Foundation that it is today. The most important secret of success at the Delancey is that the convicts could develop self-respect from helping one another through its  each one teach one program. If someone knew how to read at the sixth grade level, he could teach someone else who hadn’t gotten beyond the second grade level. The student, in turn, could teach another skill to some one else.

The Delancey spirit is best captured when Mimi Silbert says with a gleam in her eyes: I absolutely adore my life. For 0ver 37  years I’ve seen the lowest 10 per cent come through the door…but a few years later, strong, decent human beings walk out…